Thursday, January 19, 2012

See This: PINA

“I'm not so interested in how people move as in what moves them.” ― Pina Bausch

Just returned from a screening Wim Wenders' extraordinary new film, Pina, a documentary of sorts about the influential dance choreographer Pina Bausch. Subtitled "Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost," Pina is not really a documentary so much as an appreciation, a love letter, to Bausch and her company, the Tanztheater Wuppertal, and to the art and language of dance.

I'm not well versed in that language. In college in Dayton, Ohio, I once attended a performance by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company that bored me so much I never bothered to try again. I've never been to the Joffrey Ballet or dance productions at the Harris Theatre because they're slightly out of my price range. I had never even heard of Pina Bausch before seeing this film. But I found the film -- presented in immersive 3D, with brilliant color and clarity -- captivating and exhilarating.

The film showcases four of Bausch's most acclaimed works: The Rite of Spring (1975), in which the stage is covered by a thick layer of soil; Café Müller (1978), in which two blind women navigate a cafe full of chairs; Kontakthof (1978), which consists of multiple performances with actors of different generations; and Vollmond (2006), which takes place on a flooded stage containing a large boulder. In between we get a series of short dances, vignettes, and reflections on Bausch and her style from the dancers. There's not much exposition or explanation, just gorgeous, galvanizing dances and dazzling photography.

Early on in the film one of the dancers refers to dance as a language, and that idea stayed with me throughout the film. There were moments when I couldn't quite explain what was being expressed but felt moved to tears nonetheless. It made me want to learn more about this beautiful language, and made me think about the unique languages of film and music and poetry, and what they can express that other art forms cannot, and the human body and its limitations and its strength and fragility, and masculinity and femininity and mortality. And then I had to remember that there was a movie playing and I should pay attention.

I also thought -- sitting in a packed theatre, amidst a reverentially rapt audience -- about how some directors are beginning to use 3D technology not just as a gimmick to lure us off our couches and pay a surcharge, but as a thrilling new way to explore our own world (most recently the Chauvet Cave in Werner Herzog's engaging Cave of Forgotten Dreams). Reportedly Wenders' next project will be a 3-D documentary about architecture, which -- if the colors and textures are as brilliant as they are in Pina, will make for a stunning film. I hope this trend continues.

Anyway, I must get to bed, where I'm sure I'll dream of flashes of color and movement set to Stravinsky. Go check out this movie.

Pina opens Friday, January 20, at AMC River East and at the Century 12/CinéArts 6 in Evanston.

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