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Peter T Chattaway

Pina and other 3D films by Wim Wenders

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Movieguide:

... the movie seems to idolize Pina Bausch to a high degree, and there doesn’t seem to be much more of a storyline beyond that.

The film doesn't idolize Pina. It pays respect to human achievment and one's God given gifts.

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So, I got to say the film today, and I have to say it is a documentary.

But I wish it wasn't. Not because I have anything against documentaries, mind you, I'd love to see a traditional documentary on Pina. But because it seemed that the interview segments and the constant toggling between different scenes totally ruined the film's rhythm.

Every time we get into a sequence and begin to feel something Wenders pulls us out and gives us an interview, or switches to an entirely new situation. I'm not sure exactly what he was thinking when he decided to structure the film in such a fractured, discontinuous way.

I want the whole Rite of Spring sequence, or at least a lot more of it. I want to see Cafe Mueller in one go, not sliced and diced into lots of bits and pieces and rearranged.

The actual dancing in this film is spectacular, and the way the sequences are shot and edited are brilliant. It makes the best use of 3D yet (and one that makes 3D feel like a new, indispensable tool in filmmaker's arsenal, and not a mere enhancement). So why compromise that with documentary elements?

More than anything else, seeing Pina makes me want an extended edition of the film with a lot more dancing and a lot less talking (or at least re-edit the film so we're not constantly being pulled out of the experience only to be placed back into the same scene again).

That's my main problem with the film. However, I'd also like to note a few things I found interesting:

1: Many of the dances seem to revolve around one character who's very involved and another who is very passive. Hence, we have several sequences of characters having to lift and move another character, who is apparently unable or unwilling to move themselves.

2: Many of the sequences feature one character (usually female) who is at the mercy of an entire crowd.

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Sounds to me like the movie worked just the way it was meant to, Timothy. Now you want to see these dances whole.

But this wasn't supposed to serve the dances whole. It was about a person and how she blessed the individuals who danced more than being about she blesses the audience. It's about a teacher and her students. So we're drawn into a dancer's story, and then into an excerpt that illustrates something about that dancer and the lessons he or she learned. Or we're shown part of a dance in which a particular dancer shines, and then we're given a personal testimony. This was, remember, made in memory of her, and as a way for the dancers to express gratitude. If it serves to whet our appetites to actually see the whole dances, I'm sure that would please the people involved. But it would have been a different thing, with a different purpose.

Edited by Overstreet

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Sounds to me like the movie worked just the way it was meant to, Timothy. Now you want to see these dances whole.

But this wasn't supposed to serve the dances whole. It was about a person and how she blessed the individuals who danced more than being about she blesses the audience. It's about a teacher and her students. So we're drawn into a dancer's story, and then into an excerpt that illustrates something about that dancer and the lessons he or she learned. Or we're shown part of a dance in which a particular dancer shines, and then we're given a personal testimony. This was, remember, made in memory of her, and as a way for the dancers to express gratitude. If it serves to whet our appetites to actually see the whole dances, I'm sure that would please the people involved. But it would have been a different thing, with a different purpose.

Which is great, but I live in Albuquerque . . . will I ever get to see these dances whole (or more complete)? Not necessarily.

Which is where film is a great medium to bring the dances to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to see them.

Does it whet my appetite? Yes. But is there a way to actually fulfill that appetite? (I say this not knowing if the fuller dances are available on DVD or blu-ray - maybe they are, but if so they're probably not captured with the care and skill as they are here).

I'll concede that maybe the film is doing what it's intended to be doing, but the film's rhythm still makes it feel like you're getting thirty second snippets of songs that are meant to be played whole. Which is nice, but I'd like the whole album, please, not a bit here and a bit there.

Edit: I just read your review again.

In it, you say: "Some say they'd prefer to see entire dances, uncut. But this movie is a dance. Each excerpt reveals a new idea or an individual dancer's discoveries. It whets our appetite for more."

I don't disagree, but my problem isn't really that we don't see the dances uncut (although I'd like to see all of them uncut, of course), but that we get so little of each dance. The dances we spend the most time with are also the ones most frequently interrupted by the interviews and other footage. Personally, I felt that every time I was emotionally connecting to a dance Wenders cut away. There were so many great moments in the film - and almost all of them were cut seriously short.

Don't you think that's a significant problem?

I don't dislike using interviews to frame the dances and as a tribute to Pina, but I do have a problem when reliance on them ends up making it harder for the audience to connect with Pina's work; to feel and see what her dancers are describing.

I will say that, for whatever reason, I felt the second half of the film flowed better. Wenders was still cutting frequently, but it flowed. There seemed to be some logic. Maybe it's just me - maybe I was just adjusted at that point. But it wasn't until the second half until I was really able to connect with the film on an emotional level.

Edited by Timothy Zila

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But this wasn't supposed to serve the dances whole. It was about a person and how she blessed the individuals who danced more than being about she blesses the audience. It's about a teacher and her students.

If that's what PINA is supposed to be, I might like it even less than before. The vague soundbites that we get in the asides with the dancers are the film's most frustrating and tedious elements. It might have been less arty to go with full-on documentary style interviews with the cast about Pina Bausch and their experience working with her, but it would have been more informative.

I don't disagree, but my problem isn't really that we don't see the dances uncut (although I'd like to see all of them uncut, of course), but that we get so little of each dance. The dances we spend the most time with are also the ones most frequently interrupted by the interviews and other footage. Personally, I felt that every time I was emotionally connecting to a dance Wenders cut away. There were so many great moments in the film - and almost all of them were cut seriously short.

Agreed.

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Timothy Zila wrote:

: I don't dislike using interviews to frame the dances and as a tribute to Pina, but I do have a problem when reliance on them ends up making it harder for the audience to connect with Pina's work; to feel and see what her dancers are describing.

Yes. And, as noted before, the interviews don't actually give people unfamiliar with Pina's work any sort of CONTEXT for her work, or any sense as to why it was so important that Pina became the kind of artist who attracted the attention of a world-class filmmaker like Wenders. So that, too, makes connecting with Pina's work harder.

Ryan H. wrote:

: If that's what PINA is supposed to be, I might like it even less than before. The vague soundbites that we get in the asides with the dancers are the film's most frustrating and tedious elements.

That's my vague recollection too, yep. (It's been over four months since I saw the film, and it didn't make the deepest impression of the dozens of films I saw at the film festival last year.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Sounds to me like the movie worked just the way it was meant to, Timothy. Now you want to see these dances whole.

It was about a person and how she blessed the individuals who danced more than being about she blesses the audience. It's about a teacher and her students. So we're drawn into a dancer's story, and then into an excerpt that illustrates something about that dancer and the lessons he or she learned. Or we're shown part of a dance in which a particular dancer shines, and then we're given a personal testimony. This was, remember, made in memory of her, and as a way for the dancers to express gratitude. If it serves to whet our appetites to actually see the whole dances, I'm sure that would please the people involved. But it would have been a different thing, with a different purpose.

I agree with this, and yet for me on a deeper level, it was quite simply about the human journey. Pina being a very human person who influenced her students. The shots of the students just looking at the camera before or after their interviews very much showed their humanity, down to the "soul" that one could possibly see "behind" their lived in faces. There was also the shots portraying the students in their younger years, touching on how Pina helped them on their journey.

Obviously the dances also reflect this, by often being about some aspect of the human journey, whether it's our joys, pains, trials, or peacful reflection. Peter has a very good point though, in that bringing out more of Pina's story would have, of course, brought out a deeper understanding of her own journey, which would then have led to us having more insight into, and resonate more with, the dance pieces, as well as her connection to, and impact on the dancers. It would also have brought further reflection on a theme which I might have intuitively picked up on. This being that Pina was an incredibly gifted person whose gifts (and her stewerdship of them) had a profound impact on others.

That being said I didn't mind the interviews at all. For me it moved the emphasis; for the film to not just be about the finished art, but also about the artists, the artmaking process, and it's impact on peoples lives. This happening through, and with, the help of Pina's gifts and humanity.

Edited by Attica

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Still haven't seen Pina, but this seems like as good a thread as any to mention that Criterion's release of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (I never imagined how this film would look or how it would play, but I came away deeply impressed) contains an excellent extra, Signs of Vigourous Life: New German Cinema, a 1976 BBC television program. Not only is it an outstanding overview of New German Cinema -- exactly what I was looking for -- but it contains interview clips with Wim Wenders. (And Werner Herzog ... with lots of hair).

Edited by Christian

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#2 on my Top 10 of 2011 list...

Now on Netflix Instant!

Edited by Overstreet

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