Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pina (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


German art-filmmaker Wim Wenders' new film "Pina" is a 3-D tribute to the late German dance choreographer Pina Bausch. It is a colorful and hypnotic collage seamlessly blended together like a multimedia tapestry from the Internet. By using images of Pina herself in talk and in motion, what forms in front of us is nothing less than a prismatic kimono of information that enfolds us in a Taoist riddle. 

This is not to say that the film is highbrow at all. "Pina" is a half surreal, half Pop haiku of juxtaposed set-pieces  that  assimilate like clusters of bright marbles on a Chinese checkerboard with all its triangles pointing to the marvel that is Pina Bausch. In life, she was an intent birdlike woman, all arms and eyes. Bausch is portrayed as part benevolent dictator and part aloof Pop superstar. She appears on film like a squatting bird of great power, perpetually chain smoking and overseeing everything, even with closed eyes. Pina is the Matriarch and her wing span arcs  over the entire film. 

In life, Pina worked perpetually pitting the human body against the great elements  in nature, specifically soil, water and enormous boulders,  either in abundant extremes or existential sparseness. She was also known for speaking about the battleground of human intimacy and the hostilities of domestic dysfunction, of what can pull us together and break us apart. Her most notable piece "Cafe Muller" focuses on a man and woman forcibly entwined  in an Orwellian black and gray cafe as all the tables and chairs implode and scatter around them. 

Rather than upstage Pina, Wenders gives each dancer in the Tanztheater dance company the chance to offer his/ her own interpretation to Pina's memory. These sequences are pulsing and unusual, set in odd locations. One takes place in a huge factory with a dancer endlessly twirling about. Her pink satin shoes are crammed with slices of veal. In another, an elfin man with cardboard ears who looks like a cuckold, sits in spacey rapture on a streetcar as a big-bottomed Amazon noisily squashes everything in her wake.  In another, a young valentine falls repeatedly to the ground. When her lover lifts her up, he is clearly burdened. Shot in 3-D, these scenes seem infinite, feverish and ultra-miniaturized, a pop-up book point of view that suggests  we all lead our own individual Lilliputian struggles. 

One dancer moves in lugubrious motion with a rhinoceros that supposedly symbolizes Pina and her omnipotence. No matter how unflattering this is, it rapidly becomes clear that Pina was a friend as well as the enigmatic mistress of her own dance company. Her sudden death from cancer in 2009, leaves her company with a mystery that inspires and propels action. 

As Wenders films each dancer in close up before each segment, they say nothing and merely look into the camera. A comparison to Andy Warhol's factory "screen-tests" is unavoidable. Once again, a face tells of everything. 

You need not be familiar with Pina Bausch to enjoy the film. It is best to let go and just watch, swept up in its oddly haunting imagery. You might think of the experimental films of the 1960s or the sexually functioning installations of Matthew Barney, but Pina Bausch will still appear underneath all the Dadaist tapping: a heron of Herzogian concentration--- restlessly searching, relentlessly reaching.

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