Pina (IFC Films/Sundance Selects, PG)

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film pina_smThere’s a little bit of biographical information here, but the majority of Pina’s 103-minute running time is just people dancing in 3-D.

film pina_lg

 

In the second 3-D documentary in a year from directors of the ’70s-era New German Cinema movement (the first being Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Wim Wenders’ Pina is something of a concert doc focusing on dances choreographed by the late Pina Bausch. There’s a little bit of biographical information here on Bausch, mostly in the form of interviews with the dancers (artistically done themselves—we hear the interviews on voiceover while staring at the dancers’ unmoving faces), but the majority of Pina’s 103-minute running time is just people dancing in 3-D.

I admitted in my review of The Artist that, in almost every case, watching people dance makes me uncomfortable, so in that regard I am clearly not the target audience for a film like Pina, given that it is, you know, all dancing. As such, I didn’t much enjoy the film, and speaking in general terms, I can’t say that I left the theater with any greater understanding of why Bausch’s work was so significant, much less any greater appreciation for modern dance on the whole. But even so, Pina offers enough interesting pieces that I wasn’t too terribly squirmy by the end, which under the circumstances is saying a lot.

Take, for example, a bit of (if nothing else) excellent shot composition in an early piece that involves a man on an escalator. Many of Bausch’s pieces seem to be of this sort—very reliant on location—and this weight given to surroundings easily justifies the film’s 3-D release. Other examples of Bausch’s predilection for location include stuff like a woman on a monorail, a piece that involves a swimming pool, quite a few that take place outside in some capacity (be it in a meadow or a forest or what have you), and one on a stage where they cart a whole lot of dirt in to cover the floor. Some of the pieces are lowbrow enough to win over even the most impatient (i.e., me), such as the aforementioned monorail bit, one with a woman flexing someone else’s muscles (which has featured heavily in the film’s advertising campaign), or a piece that involves a hippopotamus.

This is all to say that I would expect someone better versed in dance than me or just in a general sense more comfortable watching dance would quite like this film. It isn’t strong enough to cross over and reach a viewer who cares as little as I do, but perhaps that doesn’t keep it from being a good film.

It’s just too bad that Rainer Werner Fassbinder died 30 years ago, or else he might be up next. A 3-D documentary from him would surely be much more my speed. | Pete Timmermann

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