innopac

"Pina"

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I saw this yesterday and liked it very much. The movie is not preaching to the choir, as Kathleen notes, but looking to draw in people who may not know anything about Bausch (whose work I know more from reading about it than seeing it). I'd certainly recommend it as general interest viewing; you don't need to be a dance maven to enjoy this film. I had mixed feelings about the 3D; there were some magical effects but also distancing ones, as if one was looking at a diorama.

The talking heads didn’t bother me, even if some of the dancers came up with little more than bromides, and although they disturbed one’s sense of the length and shape of the works some of the commentary did illuminate what we were watching. The use of repetition was sufficient for this viewer to get the idea, but again my acquaintance with Bausch is limited. Loved the dancers’ improvisations alfresco.

I didn’t care for the voiceover approach, where we get to watch the dancers as their eyebrows twitch, but it’s characteristic of Wenders.

Message to all filmmakers making documentaries about dance troupes: WE WANT TO KNOW WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE. Dancers are anonymous enough as it is. Group credits at the end are unhelpful. At the very least the dancers who were interviewed should have been identified.

-I suspect he selected and staged the episodes the way he did in order to make a good film, not to produce a sober assessment or even accurate rendition of Bausch's art.

Wenders might say that in making good cinema he is rendering Bausch's art accurately, more so than if he engaged in a plain vanilla archival performance effort. Certainly Pina isn't a sober assessment and it doesn't want to be; it's both a celebration and an elegy, hail and farewell.

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I saw "Pina" again yesterday, this time without any fire alarms. Some quick thoughts on a second viewing:

1) Now that I've seen it without any interruptions I can definitely say that it is too long.

2) The dancer commentaries didn't wear well the second time through. It started to feel like someone recounting one of their dreams: it's information so personal that its meaning vanishes the moment the words hit the air. SInce we don't get any other information about Bausch -- her history, her influences, her working methods, etc -- there's nothing to hang the comments onto other than the dancers' obvious commitment to Bausch. But since we see that in the dancing, we don't need to hear their words, or at least not so many of them.

3) The film lost focus somewhere around the transition from the "Kontakthof" to the "Vollmond" episodes. I think "Vollmond" itself may be the problem. Even if you don't know the overall trajectory of "Cafe Müller" and "Sacre" you can still glean the basic dramatic thrust of those works from the episodes presented. If someone asked you who these peope were and what they were up to--psychically, if not in terms of an actual plot--you could comeup with something. "Vollmond" (which I haven't seen) looks more diffuse, at least as Wenders presents it. There's no community there, and no obvious dramatic idea, just a bunch of people in pretty clothes dancing around a big honking rock and a dark puddle. The choreography looks like noodling; the vocabulary is limited and it's repetitive in a way that suggests a lack of inspiration rather than repetition serving as an expressive device. I wasn't taking notes, but it's my impression that most of the material restaged outdoors is from "Vollmond." No wonder: the rock, the rain, and the puddle may work on a stage, but the camera doesn't love them the way it loves the onstage dirt in "Sacre." However impressive it may be in the theater, the "Vollmond" stage picture just looks inert on film. You can see how shallow that dark puddle really is; the rock looks like a "Star Trek" rock. I'd be tempted to move outside too.

4) The 3D feels like a third way of looking at something, not like a more accurate emulation of reality. The opening shot of (I think) the plaza around the theater looks like a diorama or a tilt shift photo. That's fine with me.

5) The film is nonetheless well worth seeing. What I'd really like to see is "Sacre" and "Cafe Müller" shot by Wenders in their entirety. I thought that his camera work in "Sacre" was especially effective -- the visceral energy of the massed groups especially whomps you right in the chest.

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My attention wandered occasionally but I didn't find it too long,

For me the dancers' comments too personal but on occasion far too generic - the kinds of admiring things dancers tend to say about charismatic leaders.

I had read that the bits outdoors had been partially improvised, but perhaps not:

We developed this whole catalog of answers in the rehearsal room and then I started to envision how to film them. Because we didn’t have a stage or set at our disposal for these answers, I started to think of shooting these outdoors in the city of Wuppertal and I tried to find places for each and every one of these answers where the response of the dancing could be brought out in the best possible way.

Review by Joan Acocella.

Furthermore, these skits, the main ingredient in Bausch’s mature work, take second—or third or fourth—place in “Pina.” The stress in the film is on dancing, which, by the eighties, was actually little more than a decoration on Bausch’s stage. Some of the dance footage is good to have: the long clips of her gutsy “Rite of Spring” (1975) and of “Café Müller” (1978), in which she herself performs. But notice the dates. Though well trained in dance, Bausch got tired of it early. Unfortunately, she went back to it in her late work, where we see a lot of whirling, whipping, apparently tortured (by what? what’s the problem?) solos. These are much the same from piece to piece, and a big bore. If I am not mistaken, most of them were improvised.

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Dirac, thanks for the links! I hadn't come across either of these pieces before (how did I miss Acocella's?) -- very enlighening. I had a little trouble deciphering Wenders' comments about the outdoor scenes, but it sounds like they're "micro-extracts" from works in each of the dancers' repertoire that they worked on closely with Bausch. So we can scratch my speculation that they were from "Vollmond" and were shot outside to get around the limitations of the set, which Wenders' apparently doesn't think was so limited anyway. I've read a couple of reviews now where the critic didn't like the outdoor stagings; I did, but then I've only seen a handful of the dances in Bausch's 40-work catalogue (and the dancier ones at that), so I might have minded more if I'd experienced them in a theater and then had to confront them performed on a traffic island with a monorail gliding by overhead.

I love Wenders for this quote:

When I’m sitting, watching Pina’s work, I feel it in my own body. My body understands it and goes with it and my brain lags behind some and eventually follows.

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You're very welcome. :) Many of the outdoor dances did look as if they could be excerpts, so your speculation made sense.

I also liked the conga line (I'm sure it's properly called something else) that occurs toward the end of the film. Reminded me a bit of Fellini.

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Here are a couple of clips from PINA. I'm not really that much for modern and particularly not interested in the "weird" high-concept stuff, but this and Dancing Dreamsreally mesmerized me (and curiously Rosas Danst Rosas, also) . It helps that Wim Wenders directed it.

Here are a couple of nice pieces, but wow, the whole thing is just fantastic.

http://youtu.be/gdZGkgn3bKk

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Sadly the only extra on the Euro-region DVD is an interview in English with Wenders, which was taped in an echoed-filled room with intermittent banging and crashing noises. It would have been much better if it had been in German with English subtitles.

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Here is a link to a KING-FM studio interview with Wim Wenders:

http://www.king.org/pages/12437467.php

He talks a lot about the technological challenges and how 3D advanced while he worked on the project. Steve Reeder asked him if the dancers helped him choose the pieces, and he said that he chose them himself, but a couple of dancers helped him to judge the quality of the dance, and pointed out what was wrong and what Bausch wouldn't have liked.

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If you loved this film, you might want to stop reading right now because you won't like what I have to write.

You've been warned . . .

I saw it today and it's been a long time since I've seen so much pretension and self-regard on display in one movie. I would say the movie and the people in it were ripe for the Spinal Tap treatment but how do you parody something that has already descended into unknowing self-parody? Watching the screams, convulsions and twitches of the Bausch dancers and then listening to them talk in humorless, portentous tones, I found myself alternately stifling laughter and falling asleep (during the "dance" which alternates between the company dancers, the seniors and the teenagers.)

I could go on and on and on about particular aspects of Bausch's "dance" theater that I hated but here's my number one biggest gripe: Once you strip away the novelty of the dirt or the water, what are you left with? The actual dance content is thin and repetitive. Going forward, will new dancers make any kind of difference to this material? If so, I can't imagine the difference will have anything to do with actual physical movement. Any future innovation will come from determining who is the better shrieker or who can convulse better than their neighbor.

Again, no offense intended to anyone who loved this and who loves Pina Bausch . . . but I'm not one of you.

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If you loved this film, you might want to stop reading right now because you won't like what I have to write.

You've been warned . . .

I saw it today and it's been a long time since I've seen so much pretension and self-regard on display in one movie. I would say the movie and the people in it were ripe for the Spinal Tap treatment but how do you parody something that has already descended into unknowing self-parody? Watching the screams, convulsions and twitches of the Bausch dancers and then listening to them talk in humorless, portentous tones, I found myself alternately stifling laughter and falling asleep (during the "dance" which alternates between the company dancers, the seniors and the teenagers.)

I could go on and on and on about particular aspects of Bausch's "dance" theater that I hated but here's my number one biggest gripe: Once you strip away the novelty of the dirt or the water, what are you left with? The actual dance content is thin and repetitive. Going forward, will new dancers make any kind of difference to this material? If so, I can't imagine the difference will have anything to do with actual physical movement. Any future innovation will come from determining who is the better shrieker or who can convulse better than their neighbor.

Again, no offense intended to anyone who loved this and who loves Pina Bausch . . . but I'm not one of you.

What! You don't love a dancer yelling "Dies ist Kalbfleish!" while she stuffs some veal cutlets into her pointe shoes, straps 'em on, and bourées around an industrial hellhole?

I know what you mean -- although I thought of Mike Meyers' "Sprockets" rather than "Spinal Tap" ("Dis is dee part of shprockets ver vee tahnz!)-- but I like Bausch and the film anyway. wink1.gif

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although I thought of Mike Meyers' "Sprockets" rather than "Spinal Tap" ("Dis is dee part of shprockets ver vee tahnz!)

Oh, yes! rofl.GIF

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But, Miliosr , what did you think of the dance cinematography?

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Perhaps this comment will mark me as a hopeless philistine, but I really, really want to ride the Wuppertal monorail now, especially if it occasionally features avant garde dance.

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But, Miliosr , what did you think of the dance cinematography?

I thought Wenders & co. made that veal look every bit as beautiful as William Daniels made Garbo look in the 20s and 30s. wink1.gif

Seriously, though, I can appreciate and even admire the obvious craft and skill that went into making this film. The way Wenders filmed the dances was so much better than the usual static filming of dance we get in most dance DVDs. That being said, I feel like it was craftmanship and skill in the service of a diseased repertory. No matter how much artistry you bring to the filming of the patient, it doesn't make the patient any less ill.

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