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Posted by martinteller on March 19, 2013

So, I’d better start this with a couple of caveats, some grains of salt to keep in mind.  First of all, I watched this in 2D.  I have heard that the 3D experience is a must.  I’ve also heard it doesn’t add much, but the majority seem to think it greatly enhances the experience, and is possibly the best use of the technology to date.  Sadly, it wasn’t an option for me.  I didn’t catch it in the theater, I don’t have a 3D-capable television.  To be honest, 3D has only ever given me a headache, but I would have liked to have seen this as it was meant to be seen.

The other caveat is that I don’t much care for modern dance.  It’s got all the self-importance of performance art combined with the ridiculousness of mime.  Seeing people strain so hard to express a complex idea or emotion with body movement — and usually failing, because I find dance to be a very ineffective mode of communication — tends to give me the giggles.  I’m not proud of it, but the truth is I’m an uncultured philistine when it comes to dance.  A couple of times I even snarkily said to my TV, “What is that supposed to mean?”  And I’m not in the habit of talking to my TV.

So with that in mind, this film is an homage to the choreographer Pina Bausch.  I didn’t know anything about her going in, although I did instantly recognize one of the dances from Almodovar’s Talk to Her.  We don’t learn much about Bausch herself… it’s a tribute, not a documentary.  There are some comments from the dancers (told in voiceover while they sit there not moving their mouths, because dancers don’t use words or something) that reveal what an inspirational genius she was.  She was apparently full of incredibly sage gems like “Dance for love”, “Go on searching” and “You have to be crazier.”  Wow, deep stuff there.

Like most modern dance I’ve seen, some of it is intensely self-serious.  Very German, one might say.  A lot of brooding and agony and “Oh, I get it… that dancer is sad.”  It can get pretty silly.  But fortunately, a lot of it is quite joyful and even whimsical.  And for the most part, Bausch’s choreography does manage to express something.  Even when I failed to grasp the point, I marvelled at the astonishingly beautiful staging and movement.  Unlike Buena Vista Social Club, Wenders employs a visually captivating photographic style, really using the camera to interact with the dancers and create stunning images.  Again, I wish I’d seen it in 3D to get the full effect of depth.

Wenders mixes it up by staging some of the performances outdoors, and it’s hard to say which I preferred.  Whether on the stage (with copious use of external elements like dirt, chairs, water) or in a more familiar environment, something interesting was always going on.  I do wish he hadn’t interrupted dances with interview segments, however.  These talking-but-not-talking head snippets usually felt like they were just getting in the way of the good stuff.

Overall, the film overcame my distaste for this style of dance.  There is undoubtedly an artistry to Bausch’s work, and Wenders captures it magnificently.  Rating: Very Good (81)


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