“Is it bad that I understand this?” The Boy leaned in and asked halfway through Wim Wender’s Pina.
“Probably,” I said.
Pina was nominated for a documentary Oscar—what else could they do, really—but it’s not really a documentary; it’s a showcase/tribute to the late Pina Bausch, a choreographer who ran an avant-garde dance company in…well, I guess, Germany?
I mean, it sounded German. Wuppertal Danz Theater or somehin’.
You can kinda tell from the vagueness on the big strokes that this isn’t really a documentary failing, as it does, to document even the most general info about Pina.
Fine with me, really. A person is about their work and the impact they make on others, right? So what better way to pay tribute (if not actually document) than by showing a bunch of stuff they’ve done and letting others describe how they felt about the subject—in interpretive dance!
From what I could gather, this film is basically numbers choreographed by Pina interspersed with numbers by her dancers, inspired by or in tribute to Pina. And Wenders himself is a presence, cleverly transitioning between the numbers, and interspersing them with live landscape, moving trains, whatever.
Now, frankly, this probably tells you almost all you need to know about whether or not you want to see it. As interpretive dance movies go, this is one.
The Boy and I are basically clueless on the subject. I liked Bob Fosse. Debbie Allen gives me hives. And that’s way more than The Boy knows.
Still, he leaned in and—there was no reason to whisper as we were alone in the theater—"I get about 90% of this. This shit is grim.“
It is, too. There are a few moments of joy, mostly short-lived in this film about dance. Mostly the numbers seem to emphasize longing, rejection, terror, isolation—even cynicism, I would say. It opens with an interpretation of Rite of Spring (one of my favorite pieces) and presents a theme of sexual desperation/frantic-ness, which doesn’t quite jibe with how I hear and see that work.
Also, a lot of the guys looked a little unconvincing lusting after the girls. Heh.
Yes, for all the scantily clad women, there’s very little here that’s actually erotic. The women are gaunt as ballet-types tend to be, but to the point where, if the camera adds ten pounds, I’m pretty sure a couple of them were clinically dead.
We’re down with this stuff, though. It was different. It suffers a little bit in that it’s somewhat shapeless, which means it’s hard to know if it’s going to go on for 5 minutes or 2 hours. Wenders cleverly uses a dance number repetitively Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter throughout to give us a sense of the passage of time to minimize it.
Technically, I’m pretty sure a lot of what the dancers did was impossible, and they made it look effortless. So, really, this is a dancer’s movie. Even if you hated it, it’d hold your attention.
For us, it was an interesting experience.