The Pina of the title is Pina Bausch, the late German neo-Expressionist choreographer whose fluid, monumental works are as strikingly theatrical as they are rigorously physical. In preproduction when the subject died (in 2009, at age 68), this thrilling documentary by countryman Wim Wenders now serves as a posthumous tribute, both from Wenders and from the devoted dancers in Bausch’s troupe. Just as nothing is linear in the choreographer’s work, so Pina zigs and zags from performance excerpts of important pieces in the repertory (including the classic Café Müller, an obstacle course involving dancers in motion and café chairs, used in Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her) to reminiscences by those she worked with, then back again.
There’s little in the way of explanation or background information about Bausch’s life, career, and working methods. Yet rather than disorienting viewers, the result is a kind of liberation — a freedom from cultural homework assignments — that intensifies the power of Wenders’ exciting, innovative use of 3-D. So this is what 3-D is capable of when used for art rather than the commerce of hiking ticket prices and repurposing cartoons! Deeply in tune with Bausch’s interest in bodies moving (falling, flailing, crawling, jumping) through space, Wenders uses this old/new, interesting/gimmicky technology to play with the human perception of dimensionality as something subtle and profound, and not just a snazzy trick. The result, in Pina, is…wow. A