Of course I’d known about this movie thanks to Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, but release in the States has been very slow; right now, the Loews in Georgetown has it exclusively in DC, meaning mom and I had to go all the way there. It was also only playing in 3D. That might have been just as well, though; it relies on the impact of the new 3D technique far more than most movies that play in multiple dimensions do. Practically all of it, after all, is made up of performances of dances choreographed by Pina Bausch, and while they might be powerful and beautiful enough to stand in two dimensions, in three they truly are breathtaking.
And when I saw all, I literally mean all. There are a few archive clips of Pina, and shots of the surviving dancers of her Wuppertal Tanztheater company standing in front of an interview screen while voice-overs of their talking about Pina play, but everything else is a showcase of her work. Their comments, which of course are all positive, are all about her as a choreographer; there’s no sense of her as a person or even explanation of her or anyone else’s history-even her last name we get only from the credits(as well as the names of the dancers), and I only got the name of the company by googling her just now. I wonder if perhaps it was made with the assumption the German audience would already know who she was, though they could just get straight to the good stuff.
And the choreography is good. They show four extended stage pieces: her choreography to Rite of Spring, her particularly famous Cafe Muller, Kontakthof, an piece which turns the stage into a stood during which the dancers are aged and de-aged and at one point all photographed, and Vollmond, which had it raining on half the stage, and intersperse them with clips of the dancers performing in Wuppertal’s cityscape and neighboring landscape. With Wim Wenders shooting, it’s all framed stunningly as well. Not that much practical detail is given about all this; one has to find all that out from the film’s Wikipedia entry. And when it’s so hard to follow, and there’s so much of it, by the time Kontakthof has dragged itself on, one starts to wonder how much longer the film’s going to go on.
Another thing Wikipedia thinks to tell you is that Pina in fact died two days before Wenders was to begin shooting. The dancers’ quotes reflect their reaction to this, of course, giving the film a bittersweet commemorative feel obviously they hadn’t been originally planning for; she’d only been diagnosed with cancer five days before her death, and one of them notes how sudden her death had been. One wonders what this film would’ve been had she lived, but that we can never know.