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I had a lot of preconceived ideas about this documentary before seeing it. They all came flat whenever I entered a Parisian movie house on the Champs-Élysées. That is to say, a few hours ago the 6 of April being the French release date of Pina.
I was initially skeptical about the 3-D. The wave of Hollywood-like and -made items following Avatar has not convinced me. The new technique has remained a mere gimmick, funny and compelling at first sight, but eventually tedious. In this rather commercial context, Wim Wenders seems to be first « classical filmmaker » to use it for artistic purposes, that is as an adequate medium to render the complexity of Pina Bausch's choreography. Also, the critical reception during the Berlinale turned out rather positively. Nevertheless several reviews insisted upon the unrealistic effects of 3-D : the dancers' body would seem strangely « clean », almost virtual. I tended to agree with these considerations. I quickly understood my mistake. Wenders never uses 3-D for the sake of 3-D. Most of the time the viewer forgets its existence. It only appears from time to time : a sudden big shot, leaves floating in the air, drops of water falling on human skin, curtains dividing the space Theses are all magical moments. They reveal a new way of seeing reality and contain the premise of a might-able aesthetic revolution. Till the 1950's people used to dream in black-white. Perhaps, soon, I will be dreaming in 3-D.
On the other hand, I expected much of the Wender-Bausch dialog. Of course, with Pina dying on the eve of filming, the dialog could only have been posthumous. Well, the result is not so good. The film composes a beautiful, moving elegy to a great artist, but nothing more. After a first, innovating and convincing half-hour, Wenders' narration becomes repetitive and monotonous. It's mostly a serial of individual focus on dancers who all equally says how fine Pina was and sorry they are about her death. The film does not go beyond an extensive, overlong tribute. Preceding Wender's documentaries really showed the in and out of things : Tokyo-Ga revealed the paradoxical legacy of Ozu, and the Buena Vista Social Club the spontaneous life of the homonymous music band. Here, there is no paradox and not much spontaneity. Strangely enough a 3-D film only reveals a one-dimensional image of Pina Bausch : an unaccessible goddess, far away from the livings, and far away from the living person she was.
My final statement : an overlong documentary, but, probably, the cinematic experiment of the year. It's not a must-like, but a definite must-see. Eight out of ten.
The cinematographic Odyssey.
I don't think that I overrate this movie by saying it's the cinematographic equivalent of Homere's Odyssey. Birth of a Nation was already an attempt to create an American Iliad. Griffith's Odyssey mainly differs from Homer's by the following point: this time the trip isn't spatial but temporal. The viewers actually travels around four different epochs: Mesopotamian antiquity, Judea at Jesus's time, St-Bartholomew's France, and "modern" America. There is two links between those epochs: the issue of intolerance, and this wonderful pictorial idea of a mother pushing a cradle.
Of course, this movie, as most great artistic achievements, stands unequal. But one doesn't care. To my personal viewpoint I would say that the Mesopotamian episode is the best (I've never heard before of Constance Talmadge: what a wonderful screwball comedy actress she could have been. After all she was only two years older than Irene Dunne). The Jesus's one is good too, but to short (it's may be due to the fact I "only" saw an 160 minutes version). The modern one is interesting, but a bit too shaky: the first part of it is truly great, but the second part is too much melodramatic. Concerning the French episode, I think that most analysts agree to say it's the weakest, although it's funny to see Eugene Palette as a young romantic lead. Moreover, as a Frenchman, I think that Griffith's vision of the French court is rather caricatured.
I Married an Angel (1942)
A Very interesting Failure
One used to say, concerning Nathaniel Hawthorne, that his failures were more interesting than his successes. I believe that the same remark could suit to McDonald-Eddy's pictures. And especially this one.
It apparently possesses many characteristics of a failed movie: it's kitsch, the script, because of censorship, sounds inconsistent Yet, this movie gets also some good points: good Rodgers-Hart's music ("I married an angel", "Tira tira tira la"), good acting with E.E.Horton and Reginald Owen.
Anyway, if you may dislike it, you can't forget it. This strange movie actually leaves a very strong, dreamlike, impression, and you are very likely to keep it in mind for days, maybe for weeks. Why? In the thirties and the beginning of the forties, movies didn't have the same mean than today: it aimed, like a dream, to divert the public in order to make it forget a difficult reality. Of all the the dream-movies that was made, in that time, this one stands as particularly powerful.
In short, let's say that the better way to appreciate this movie, is to watch it without wondering whether it's good or bad. To watch it, like you would watch a dream.