Oh Pina, you esoterically creative movie you. You adequately use 3D. You let old people dance. I thought you were going to be just one dance piece after another but you also show the titular Pina Bausch teaching her company and those dancers whose lives she has touched. Here’s a media-heavy, pretentious are the movies/ dances/songs that I remember when I watched you.
1940: Fantasia – Walt Disney uses the end of the Jurassic period to accompany the music as opposed to the original subject matter. Speaking of which, how old was I when I knew about human sacrifices. I couldn’t have been that old. Also, my high school put together a performance of Printemps.
2009: Coco and Igor – Director Jan Kounen takes us to the first performance of Vaslav Nijinski‘s vision. We mostly see the the blackness that envelopes the dancers as the wait for the audience’s reactions while having to go on like professionals should. Nijinsky and Igor Stravinsky later fight about the piece’s reaction.
2009: Mao’s Last Dancer (Bruce Beresford. ch. Graeme Murphy) – Instead of a woman, the company’s star is a man, Li Cunxin. I’m not sure what the story is here, whether he’s the sacrifice or the one doing the sacrificing but this athletic, daring and exposing choreography looks enthralling.
2011: Pina (Wim Wenders) – Bausch’s interpretation of the dance is more arm-y although it incorporates the jumps in Nijinsky’s original choreography. The story is more coherent and shows how death randomly chooses its young victims as the multinational company pass along the chosen virgin’s ironic red dress.
2002: Hable con ella – This movie’s Cafe Mueller scene is probably many movie lovers’ introduction to Bausch. Her gaunt face and slenderness complements the piece’s theme of yearning, even in an adult, contemporary setting where those kind of emotions should be eliminated by civilization and choice. The movie ends with Bausch’s piece Mascura Fogo, which is so simple and physically expressive that only someone like Bausch can invent it.
2011: Pina – The movie both shows Bausch’s rendition of her own choreography with the equally moving tribute by one of her company’s dancers. They also take bits of Café Mueller to different environments, making its lines look natural and transcendent. Oh and her pieces mostly seem to be about mating, barriers and behaviours about love.
1946: It’s a Wonderful Life - Kontakthof strikes me as a very American piece with the multipurpose dance hall setting. It’s if its context would be relatable on both sides of the Atlantic, the dance hall a place for people to reacquaint with each other. I’d also make the same association with They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? if I saw that movie.
2011: Pina – Unlike the two movies I stated above, Kontakthof uses the setting to play around with age and dancing traditions. A ‘senior’ troupe performed this piece in Britain. The Wuppertals mix the ages around, the seasoned veterans sharing the floor with the new blood. The pieces have their different purposes, Printemps showing what Bausch is famous for, Mueller retraces her steps, Kontakthof passes her legacy to new generations.
2002: “The Private Press” -Contemporary dance seems like the medium’s Wild West in a way that despite of the dominant use of (contemporary) classical and baroque music used in the pieces, any company can use whatever music they like. My favourite scene is when I’m sure that are the performers dancing to a song from the first half of DJ Shadow’s second album.
2010: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky. ch. Benjamin Millepied?) – It’s taken me this long and this piece to revisit that movie’s histrionics. The set here is just a full moon at the background, one of James Wolcott’s points against the movie in his scathing review. I can only compare Black Swan‘s sets to Wuppertals’ big rock and flooded stage as apples and oranges. There’s an air to their approach to how both stage dance as minimalist if not for the ornamental details, like the translucent curtains that both movies share.
- The Magic Of Pina Bausch (buzzfeed.com)
The angels look down upon Berlin. In Wim Wenders‘ Der Himmel uber Berlin, they listen to the poetry and grumblings of its different citizens. They hear mostly in German but occasionally in English, like the voices of Peter Falk (Falk), visiting to shoot a movie. They try to comfort people despite their limited powers to send their messages across. When they meet they compare notes. Today is a normal day but they talk glowingly, their excitement towards humans is legitimate in a way, every life a miracle full of climactic emotions and insights.
Claire Denis is Wenders’ assistant direction and it does feel like a Denis film at times, as the camera sweeps to follow the angels and the Berliners in their natural environment. There’s also some impressionistic touches, with the first shot of a child’s eye or many others, like a wing, the inside of a sewer, the angels and their shadows, sequences showing high angle zooms, fast subway cars and the people inside them and an angel reacting to these people in a dark space. The occasional violin in the film score also gives that impression of a continuing German film making tradition.
Among the Berliners are Turkish families, black students and Asian rockers. Colourful graffiti plasters itself unto the Berlin Wall. But it inevitably shows reel footage of the city after the war. The angel Cassiel guides an old man within the obliterated Potsdam district, the latter shocked that the can’t find it in its original bustling form. The movie has its own concepts of statehood, as if Germany has existed before the landmass rose out of the water. The angels crossing the wall feels like a statement although most of the film doesn’t have the preachy tone of every political film. Instead it has the spiritual aura, thus showing a fractured yet evolving country.
It wouldn’t be long until one of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) envies the tactile nature of human experience although his colleague tells him to distance himself from such thoughts. He’s partly motivated to become human because of a Barbara Stanwyck lookalike of a trapeze artist named Marion (Solveig Dommartin). Ganz’s benevolent face shines throughout Damiel’s angelhood that naturally gets stripped when he transforms. He, with the movie, negotiates this premise, the human Damiel having the childlike giddiness brought on by a schoolboy crush. He still embodies the spirit of the city he used to watch.
- Great Characters: Damiel (“Wings of Desire”) (gointothestory.com)