Of all the Oscar nomination surprises this year, none approaches the daffy daring of Wim Wenders' new film Pina getting a nod for best documentary. A 3D tribute to the late choreographer and visionary Pina Bausch, the film assembles many of the dancers who worked with her in her Tanztheater Wuppertal and gives them the chance to speak, and move, from the heart.
Bausch's work is profoundly elemental, bringing earth and water to the stage and making them integral parts of the story the dancers are telling with their bodies, or placing dancers in unexpected places and situations. If you saw Pedro Almodóvar's Talk To Her, then you witnessed one of Bausch's signature pieces, Café Müller, and the genius herself performing in the dance pieces that bookend that film.
Pina gladly takes the baton from last year's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in the ongoing quest to prove that 3D isn't just for sequels and explosions. Everything we see is real, and that adds a very distinctive experience to the thrill of stereoscopic viewing. The way the 3D allows the viewer to experience the physical space of these performances without having actually been there is impressive — yet even more so is the fierce love these dancers had for Bausch, and the astonishing and unusual ways in which they express it.
Whether digging in dirt, or sliding through pools of water, or piercing the sky in public transportation, Pina the film reawakens one's eyes to the magic and majesty of movement. As viewers, we sometimes get a little complacent. It's good to have a vampire attack or an interdimensional incident every now and then, but the trick that Wenders pulls off here is perhaps even more magical and wondrous: Pina forms a testament to how amazing the human body can be. This film makes the concrete and the absolute into something hallucinatory and majestic — abstract thought is channeled into flesh, not words, and its humor, passion, struggle, and sweat is a touchstone for us all as human beings.
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