Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dance film PINA dazzles in 3D

Review by James Colt Harrison

German director Wim Wenders has joined artistry with choreographer Pina Bausch to create the most wonderful and unusual dance film since Gene Kelly made Invitation to the Dance at MGM in 1956. Wenders wrote and directed this film in magnificent depth perceptive 3D, whereas Kelly leaned on Technicolor to give his film some sparkle.

Garnering an Academy Award ® nomination in the Best Documentary Feature film this year, Wenders has molded a curious but fascinating look at one of Germany’s most creative purveyors of the dance. Not well-known outside of her native Germany, Ms. Bausch died just as filming started and did not participate in the actual film. But her dances shine on their own, and we get glimpses of the artist in some old film clips that are unobtrusively inserted into the film.

Wenders is a great booster of the 3D filmic technique. He uses it to advantage to put the audience right into the midst of the dancers  to give a feeling that you are part of the dance troupe yourself. It’s a journey of discovery as you are propelled right onto the stage of the Pina dance ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal. These same dancers convinced Wenders to continue on with the film after Pina’s untimely death.

The director used the cream of the crop for his cast. Some of these dancers were Regina Advento, Jorge Puerta, Andre Beresin, Josephine Ann Endicott, and Ranier Behr. Gene Kelly had done the same with his experimental Invitation to the Dance on the sound stages of MGM. He filmed three different sequences—“Circus,” “Ring Around the Rosy,” and “The Magic Lamp,” and used Broadway dancers Carol Haney and Tommy Rall, film dancer Belita, and ballet stars Tamara Toumanova and Igor Youskevitch. The film was all dance music and no dialogue. In its day it was a bold move in the art of film musicals. The Wenders film carries on that brave tradition.

Wenders has selected four of Pina’s most provocative pieces to include in the presentation. They are “Le sacre du printemps,” with the dancers separated into male and female groups; “CafĂ© Muller,” a place where Pina visited as a child; “Kontakthof,” performed by groups of different generations; and “Vollamond,” during which the stage is flooded so the dancers can incorporate watery splashes into the movements.

Ms Pina created some of the most unusual and imaginative choreography seen since the advent of Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins in the United States. Her dance moves are like nothing you have ever seen. Is it a blend of Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan? Perhaps. But Ms Pina’s stye is not one that could be confused with any other dance artist’s. IFC Films.

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