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2011 | 106 min | PG | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 20 January, 2012
 22 April, 2011

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Screenshots from Pina Blu-ray

Pina Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, February 9, 2012

Watching "Pina" is like attending a funeral for a total stranger. It's a stunning visual event, elegant and artful, paying close attention to the majesty of movement and the crashing of elements. However, if the name Pina Bausch means nothing to you, there's no motive to spend time with this vague greatest hits package of her work in modern dance. Director Wim Wenders projects nothing but love with this ode to form and tense choreography, but it's an empty affair providing a meager education on the life and times of a respected figure. Fans might not mind the drifting attention span of the 3D feature, perhaps thrilled with any chance to sit in the imposing shadow of the master, but those new to this subject might find themselves lost in a hurry.

In a cruel twist of fate, Pina Bausch passed away a mere two days before Wenders was to commence shooting a documentary on her life and extensive history with dance. Spurred on by the members of Bausch's company, Wenders reworked the concept of "Pina," moving from exploration to celebration, but the haunted sort of revelry befitting the recent loss of a loved one. Instead of communicating who Bausch was as a human being and instructor, Wenders and the cast have turned the picture into a fiery pursuit of essence, staging the choreographer's most famous and heated works as a way to cherish her leadership and ability to challenge her dancers to greatness.

The Tanztheater-inspired dance sequences make up the majority of "Pina," with Wenders capturing furious movement from the sinewy performers, who give their all to the screen as a way to pay tribute to Bausch. The stage environments are most compelling, filled with elemental materials such as water or peat to add volatile textures to the interpretations, creating a hypnotic violence of matter and movement for pieces such as "The Rite of Spring." The director also visits numerous locations around Germany, staging dances in rural pockets or within urban centers, favoring the fluid mass transit system of Wuppertal, Bausch's hometown. Many of these scenes capture a pleasing sense of naturalness crucial to Bausch's work and the visual scheme of the picture, which employs 3D to create outdoor depth and reproduce the theater experience.

The dances presented are expressive and symbolic, favoring a routine of bondage and obsessive behavior masterminded by Bausch. In 3D, many of these contributions take on a special screen poetry, dazzling the eyes. What's missing here is substance or even a moderate amount of explanation, with Wenders blazing through many of the dramatic dances, hurrying along to incorporate a wide range of examples. Many of the scenes are rudely cut short, most before they're allowed to seize the senses. Another irritant is the framing, which often doesn't meet the needs of the performer, missing vital displays of ability as the camera floats around, grabbing what it can. Parts of "Pina" feel improvised, lessening the awe the production is working to encourage. Bausch herself also remains an enigma, with little information passed along to comprehend her personality. Only her choreography and its effect on her company remains, with the group sharing formless memories in voiceover while Wenders photographs them staring mournfully at the camera.

"Pina" is a specialized feature for a specialized audience, often feeling like a missed opportunity. It provides moments of magnificence and cinematic grace, and the sheer physicality of the dancers is wondrous to behold, highlighting an expressive group striving to make this eulogy to Pina Bausch mean something extraordinary. It's a striking film. Again, followers of the late choreographer will assuredly devour every last moment. Outsiders might have more difficulty comprehending Bausch's mastery, especially whacked up into bite-sized pieces of inscrutable emotion and abrupt movement.

Starring: Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo, Ruth Amarante, Pina Bausch
Director: Wim Wenders

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