By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Possible the only thing wrong with “Pina,” the new 3-D dance documentary by Wim Wenders, is its title. I mean, you don’t call a movie “Jagger” and expect people who’ve never heard of the Rolling Stones to know what you mean.
Pina is Pina Bausch, a bracingly original German choreographer who was friendly with Wenders. They’d talked about making a movie showcasing her work for years. Unfortunately, she died in 2009, only 68.
Wenders went ahead with the movie anyway. It’s mostly dance, as it should be. Occasionally, Wenders intercuts the performances with interviews in which the members talk about Pina — her dance ethic, her particular genius, the way she worked with each of them. Says one, “Pina was a painter and we are her paint.”
Still, words aren’t the way to convey her art.
And quite remarkable movement it is. Her most famous work, “Café Muller,” takes place in a space filled with tables and chairs — a café of the mind. The dancers use these inanimate objects in a series of jaw-dropping configurations. Even Cirque de Soleil can’t match them. And yet, it’s not acrobatics; it’s dance — like something Bob Fosse might’ve put together in the middle of a fever dream.
Briefer works place performers on a city street as cars whoosh by and an El rolls above. It’s street theatre in the purest sense. Or they play near an indoor pool. Or act out a love affair with a hippo.
Every imaginable theme is addressed: youth, aging, death, romance, eroticism, androgyny, selfishness, generosity, fear, kindness. I can almost see Woody Allen and the late Ingmar Bergman in the audience, nodding yes and yes and yes as the company careens from joy to tragedy, from a skittering little throwaway to a shivery end game.
The 3-D is used almost as well as it is in “Hugo.”(SEE IT) The technique adds a dimension to these bodies in motion, to these airs above the ground.
“Pina” will make you gasp. It will make you laugh. Most of all, it will make you watch. Dance truly is a kind of miracle, isn’t it?