One of the interesting and unexpected film stories of 2011 is about 3-D, which simultaneously lost commercial potency and gained artistic credibility.
Those who dismiss the format as the industrial gimmick (and excuse for price gouging) that it frequently is may need to reconsider it now that a handful of certified auteurs have given it a try. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, grand old men of baby-boomer Hollywood, have made 3-D children’s tales (“The Adventures of Tintin” and “Hugo”), which are certainly noteworthy. More remarkable, perhaps even astonishing, is that Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, stalwarts and survivors of the iconoclastic New German Cinema of the 1970s, have used 3-D in new documentaries.
Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and Wenders’s “Pina” are explorations of the artistic impulse, primordial and postmodern. “Pina” is a tribute to Pina Bausch, the German dancer and choreographer who died in 2009.
Her work has appeared on film before; Pedro Almodovar’s “Talk to Her” uses the dance “Cafe Muller” as an emotional touchstone. That piece, an obstacle course of wooden chairs and wild emotions set to music by Henry Purcell, figures prominently in “Pina,” encapsulating both Bausch’s aesthetic and Wenders’s desire to replicate on screen the depths and distances of the staging.
The dances in “Pina” take place on traditional stages and also on city sidewalks and tram cars (in Wuppertal, the northwestern German city where Bausch’s company is based), in forests and fields and, thanks to an especially ingenious coup de cinema, in what looks like a portable box. Alternating between highly stylized, precise gestures — of hands, fingers and faces as well as torsos and limbs — and more flowing and expressive movements, the dancers enact dramas of desire, sexual violence and the passage of time.
The cumulative effect is exhilarating and also a bit frustrating, since so many dances are included and woven together the audience does not have the chance to experience any single work in its entirety. But the power and intelligence of Bausch’s approach, which at times seems more cerebral than sensual, is communicated. And there are moments when her discipline and Wenders’s visual instincts harmonize perfectly, so that you are experiencing dance and film simultaneously.
In addition to the performances, “Pina” includes interviews with dancers, their words dubbed over their silent, contemplative faces. Instead of talking heads, they are thinking bodies, reflecting on the influence of their mentor. Their devotion to Bausch is evident, though the glowing tributes they offer also suggest that, like many charismatic artists, she cultivated something of a cult of personality.
Diverse in age, body type and background, the dancers — speaking French, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese and other languages — convey their awe and gratitude in notably similar terms. “Pina used to say, ‘Be more crazy.’ ” “Pina used to say, ‘Surprise me.’ ” This is touching, but it leaves any analysis of her creative process and the ideas that drove it shrouded in a mist of generality.
But criticism is not really what Wenders intends. Choreography is a notoriously perishable art. Dances often struggle to outlive their creators. And “Pina” is, above all, an act of preservation, a memorial that is also a defiance of mortality — completely alive in every dimension.
The New York Times
Pina in 3-D
Thursday, July 19,
5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Blitzmegaplex, Grand Indonesia
Jl. M.H. Thamrin No. 1, Central Jakarta
Tel. 021 2355 0208