Nomination: Best Feature Documentary - Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
I had never watched a documentary about German dance before, and were it not for the Every Oscar Ever project I can say with a great degree of certainty that I never would have. Pina is yet another example of how the Every Oscar Ever project has helped me discover some truly wonderful films that I would otherwise have overlooked through my own ignorance.
Pina is a documentary-cum-performance film celebrating the work of the late Bausch, leading figure behind the Tanztheater style of dance. The film, directed by the celebrated German filmmaker Wim Wenders, was conceived as a documentary about Bausch before she unexpectedly died shortly before production. Though the film contains short interstitial interviews with dancers who knew Bausch, the heart of the film consists of cinematic versions of her dances.
As a philistine when it comes to any type of dance other than Gene Kelly or my wife's viewing of Dancing with the Stars, I grew wary once I realized that the film would be almost entirely performance, with very little in the way of traditional documentary storytelling. This concern was heightened by the fact that I viewed the film in 2D through Netflix Instant Watch, instead of in the 3D in which it was conceived and which was reportedly utilized brilliantly. Yet I was surprised to find that I was drawn into the film in a rather deep way. Bausch's choreography is unlike anything I've ever seen, appearing to me to be an extension of natural human movement more than staged dance. The opening piece, Le Sacre du printemps, an aggressive dance recorded on a stage covered by soil, had me riveted, and though not every dance had the same verve, each was radically different from the rest yet part of a cohesive whole.
What especially impressed me about these dances was that several were filmed not on a stage, but in the real world, including on in-service buses, in busy city intersections, and even one involving a leaf blower in nature. This decision to move the dance from the purely theatrical not only made the film more visually interesting, but put the dance in the context of the real world and outside of the stuffy confines of the theater.
I wish I had seen the film in theaters and in 3D, as it was evident by much of the staging that Wenders clearly conceived and planned for the film to be in 3D. Still, even in 2D the film was visually compelling, and not simply a stationary camera statically filming dance sequences as I feared. The camera is subsumed into the dance in a completely natural manner, bringing the film to life. Wenders's direction is truly marvelous and deceptively simple, and the Academy should have considered him for a nomination for his direction.
Though Pina is not for everyone, film lovers should think twice before dismissing it. It is a wonderful and completely unique piece of art, both a part of and separate from Pina Bausch's own legacy. This is very much a collaboration between Wenders and Bausch's legacy, and well worth watching even for those who who can't tell a fouette from a foxtrot.
Remaining: 3171 films, 871 Oscars, 5446 nominations