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Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Pina’ — Wim Wenders brings miracle of dance to big screen

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.

Movement is.

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?

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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