Friday, September 09, 2011

pina dreaming

Arriving in the Industry pick-up centre this morning at the Hyatt Regency on King, I was surprised at how full it already was, as people (many arriving directly from Venice) trailed suitcases and suitbags - too anxious to get their package to check in first. It seemed impossible to me that a cliché was the very first piece of dialogue I overheard: "I'm Jack. We met in Cannes I think."

It has been an exciting first day. But before I get to that, I have to I start my TIFF blogging with an apology. For the last few years I have been ranting about the Lightbox - its corporate leadweight on the festival, the way it symbolizes the increasingly corporate profie of TIFF that has changed it from an alternative art-house salon into a marketplace. But now that I am attending movies in it, I have to say that it is a great screening house. The cinemas are ideal movie spaces - and it only takes a quick walk up the street to the loathsome Scotiabank to feel the gratitude deepen. TIFF's P & I screenings are split this year between the Scotiabank multiplex and the Lightbox. The LB screens are exquisite (and my first film was made all the richer by its cinema space). The building also contains the feeling of "museum" in a way that is entirely appropriate. I will have to get used to the many suspended walkways and glass railings that feed my vertigo, but the building works and is a pleasure to be in.

My first screening was Wim Wenders'
Pina, and it was thrilling to be handed my 3D glasses. Waiting for the lights to go down I listened in on a conversation behind me: two men talking about Lars Von Trier's Melancholia which they had just seen. I had hoped so much to arrive in time today for that screening, but couldn't manage it. I learned much however from their intelligent, insightful discussion which included relating it to von Trier's wider work.

Pina's gorgeous lines are borne out of Wim Wenders ability to adopt Bausch's eye for the inspiration born of environment, from an industrial complex to open mountain side to the graceful gliding of the monorail through Wuppertal like a dancer itself. The decision for 3-D works, though I wasn't sure at first. 3-D offers a separation of space that feels like CGI and takes a while to adjust to as having been generated in true action. The advantage here is that it simulates the way we experience dance in the theatre and Wenders seems to intuit that - with shots that play with the concept of a theatrical 'house' - where the heads of those like us are visible in the frame watching the dance. And yet in many other ways the film seeks to break the fourth wall. It made me think of the work of my friend and Canadian filmmaker Moze Mossanen who has been doing this since the 1980s with his films about dance. I can't wait for Moze to see this film and assess the 3D aspect. Which wall are we breaking with the third dimension? It seems to be about depth of field and there are moments when the dancers seem to be coming right toward us. There is a layering of the theatrical sets that also works well.

Wenders' respect for Bausch is perhaps the most moving thing about
Pina. It is an homage, from one German master to another, speaking across forms but with a tremendous amount of suspended ego. Their styles seem to blend. When Pina Bausch died two years ago, I wrote a piece on her then. (Go here to read it.) I wrote there about Café Muller and how haunting it is to watch Bausch perform it. Wenders uses that footage of her performance in a wonderful way, nestling it in the centre of a sequence that approaches the piece through the reminiscences of her collaborators, who then perform the work again. The film seeks to lift its participants' voices out of the body by allowing us to simply watch them, as we hear their voice. It is a clever device. In the end it is the dances themselves which transfix the image and memory of Pina in our hearts. Lovingly performed by an otherwise sorrowful company, still adjusting to her departure, they lift out of even three dimensions into a weightless undefinable reality.

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