Longer hiatus than expected getting to this documentary review, but exciting stuff coming in the next few days—including the first theatre review of the new season(and something I didn’t plan on attending)! Also, finally getting to a piece on the wild and exhilarating “Holy Motors” from France. And a very special birthday tribute on the Ides of March. But right now I should focus on Wim Wenders latest doc project about the late, famed, German ballerina…Pina Bausch.
The eclectic Mr. Wenders is probably most renowned for bringing us 1987’s “Wings of Desire” and it’s somewhat inferior 1993 sequel, “Faraway, So Close”(the former received an American remake in 1998 called “City of Angels”, starring Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. It was a pretty big hit that spring—but this critic advises you to skip it and watch the original instead). Then there’s Wim’s wonderful documentary from 1999—“Buena Vista Social Club”. That chronicle of elderly Cuban musicians was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award in the year 2000, but it lost to the fantastic “One Day in September”, about the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Just the luck of the draw there, but “BVSC” has some of the liveliest music you’ve ever listened too—it’s a soundtrack that has played at many a summer party at my own home. In 2011, Wenders turned his eye to dance. His enthralling “Pina” was nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category in 2012—and now I have an issue with the recipient of the award. Because this time W.W. was denied even though he had the best film in the category. I just covered the winner(“Undefeated”)a few days ago—and it can’t hold a candle to Mr. Wenders latest. Oh, how I wish I had experienced “Pina” in a large auditorium and in 3D! That’s right, “Pina” received a 3D release in late 2011—and it even made it(briefly)to a shopping mall multiplex near me. So many films, so little time. But after enjoying the standard 2D version on DVD last week…I now realize it was worth making that trip happen. Hindsight is what it is, I guess. The chief complaint I’ve heard about “Pina”? That it’s not really a documentary proper. And I suppose that is true. It’s more of a celebration of Pina’s style of dance, than a year-to-year breakdown of her life. We’re told that Bausch began a collaboration with Wenders on this project in 2009—and then died suddenly that summer at the age of 68. Throughout “Pina” we learn a little about Bausch and her style of dance through her student’s reflections. It never becomes a standard doc feature. It’s all about the movement. But damn—that dancing is out of this world. Not since the time of Bob Fosse’s heyday have I been more enraptured witnessing the skilled acrobatics of bodies moving through space. It’s a mesmerizing tribute to the late, great genius—so narrative be damned! Dancing in water, dancing in the woods, dancing in a giant glass house, dancing on the elevated railway—see this on the BIGGEST screen available. It’s freaking beautiful. “Undefeated” was a nice, little, uplifting story about the rebuilding of a high school football team. But “Pina” is the documentary you will find yourself saying “Wow!” during. And it should’ve garnered the Oscar for its troubles. Grade: A