Cannes 2011 Review: PINA
With the onslaught of dance films over the past few years, not only has the genre become fodder for lackluster attempts at feature filmmaking, but also, on the flip side, a great use of the 3D format. 3D has become something of a mainstay at your local theaters, but rarely has it jumped ship to the arthouse world. That is, until an arthouse auteur decides to jump on the dance film bandwagon.
That auteur is none other than director Wim Wenders, and after playing the early 2011 festival circuit, his 3D dance documentary PINA hit the Croisette for this year's Cannes Film Festival. And let it be known that this may be one of the festival's strongest films.
PINA is Wim Wenders' loving ode to a fallen friend, iconic German dance choreographer Pina Bausch, and finds the filmmaker working in a territory he's frankly not all that accustomed to - 3D. However, if there has ever been a filmmaker to take that format above and beyond what it has become known as - a gimmick - it's Wenders. And he does just that.
PINA is not a normal documentary. Featuring statements from performers taught by the titular teacher, the film plays like something wholly different. Each dancer has his or her own final words that he or she would like to say to Bausch, and Wenders gives them that outlet, to truly emotional depths. You won't be walking out of this film knowing all that much about Bausch as a person. Frankly, I didn't know anything about her before, and other than the fact that she could choreograph the hell out of any piece of music or any singular item, I don't know much afterwards. However, what this film did do is not only give me an emotional connection to these people I've never seen or heard of prior, but also send me running to YouTube to see even more pieces from Bausch. That, I think, other than being an ode to a friend, is exactly what Wenders had hoped to do with this film.
He also, simply put, crafted a beautiful piece of cinema. PINA, as a flat piece of film, is gorgeous. Each shot is expertly framed and put together, and the film's cinematography is out of this world. The soundtrack is diverse, ranging from classical all the way to a hip-hop track about smoking weed, as is the film's flair for the dramatic. Each set piece is wholly original and unlike anything you'd see in your run-of-the-mill STEP UP dance flick, just as was the person, Pina herself, who we only briefly see in source footage scattered throughout the film. That said, the 3D changes everything. And I mean that in the best possible way, as this film's use of 3D not only changes the way you view the film, but the way one will view the format.
Giving the film an immense level of depth, each dance move jumps off of the screen, but in a way that doesn't feel gimmicky. As if you were watching a 2D film with a much deeper level of depth, PINA doesn't toss things at you or force its dancers to leap forward, it simply gives them a deeper frame to work within. The 3D does give the film a much darker feel visually, but with the primary color scheme being so vibrant, it's only the interior sequences where you feel the lack of light. Overall, Wim Wenders has made one of the first films that you absolutely have to see in 3D. And it's one hell of a film to boot.
Overall, while PINA isn't the deepest of documentaries, it doesn't really appear as though that's what Wenders set out to make. What he did make, however, is a gorgeous love letter to a fallen comrade, voiced by the various people whose lives she so dearly touched. Toss in energetic and kinetic dance sequences that ooze Wenders' originality, and some of the best 3D to date, and you have a film that is one to definitely toss on the glasses for.