“Pina” at New York Film Festival

I am not going to claim to have been able to understand and appreciate  everything that was going on in German director Wim Wendors’ new 3-D documentary “Pina,” which will be shown at the New York Film Festival on Saturday, October 15.  Perhaps being concerned with “understanding” is not the point of this colorful, vibrant, thrilling and wonderfully confusing film about the late German choreographer, dancer, teacher and director, Pina Bausch.

Yes, I know many readers may groan when I mention “3-D,” a term which has, by now, become a cliché as well as a negative, pop-cultural punch line.  In its defense I must point out that “Pina” uses 3-D in a manner that is intelligent, justified and brilliantly artistic.  In fact the only other recent 3-D film to which “Pina” can be compared, for its innovative use of the format, is Werner Herzog’s documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”  Granted the two films, in terms of their respective subject matters and techniques, are wildly different.

Dancers recreate the choreography of Pina Bausch in Wim Wenders' new documentary "Pina."

As I know next to nothing about dance, or choreographers, the best I could do was watch the highly original dance pieces as presented by the dancers who worked with Pina.  Her work, to me, seemed to be a cross between ballet and modern dance with interesting innovations thrown in. For example, in “Café Muller” the dancers interact with chairs and tables.  In “Rite of Spring” the stage floor is covered completely in earth.  The dance pieces have been beautifully staged for this film.  Many of them take place outdoors, in parks and, in one case, even on a moving tram.  They have been gorgeously shot, employing deep focus cinematography, which compliments the 3-D technology.

In addition to performing Pina’s choreography, her dancers are interviewed in a way that is very unique.  We never see the interviewees speak.  We see them, sitting silently, perhaps waiting for Wenders to ask them questions.  We hear their comments, recollections and appreciations over shots of them sitting there, silently, lips not moving.   It is very effective and contributes to the film’s ethereal quality.  Their remembrances of Pina are enhanced by the dances themselves: “Meeting Pina gave me a vocabulary,” “Life without Pina.  I don’t know what it is.”  Pina is quoted as having advised, “You just have to get crazier.”

The experience of seeing “Pina” is tantamount to being lost in a dream.  As for writing anything more penetrating or critical about dance I am afraid I am at a loss.  In my defense though I will simply quote Pina herself: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.”


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on October 10, 2011, in New, New York Film Festival 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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