Pina 3D (Blu-ray)
Directed by Wim Wenders
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 103 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 varied languages
MSRP: $ 49.95
Release Date: January 22, 2012
Review Date: January 28, 2012
Four of Pina Bausch’s most celebrated works are featured in the film: “Le sacre du printemps,” “Café Müller,” “Kontakthof,” amd “Vollmond” along with some other brief solos and other pieces danced in memory of their mentor. Bausch’s style is revolutionary: it involves physical contortions and explosive body consciousness in addition to rapid foot movement and the use of Mother Earth (dirt, water, mineral formations) and man-made objects interacting with human beings in expressing emotions, and some of the ideas and executions are revelatory and extraordinary. However, Bausch is also sometimes prone to repetition in movements which occasionally drags the dances out to unreasonable lengths (and we never see the complete dances but rather lengthy fragments of the pieces’ highlights).
To give variety to several of the pieces, director Wim Wenders has photographed the dancers in actual performance before an audience but has intercut portions of the dance recreated on a soundstage or in real life locations so his 3D camera can weave among and through the action giving glimpses no audience members would ever be privileged enough to witness. Those who value dance above all things won’t be happy that sometimes full figures are sacrificed for close-ups of faces or other body parts, and close-ups also focus on only part of the piece rather than the whole which a purist would prefer seeing. This unique approach, however, does add fire and color to the staged pieces and keeps audience attention from sometimes lagging in some of the longer and more cyclical sections of the “plays” (as director Wenders calls them). The movies also make possible intriguing segues between the old and young members of “Kontakthof” through nimble editing and double exposures. And the company is unique in that there are both young and old who take part in these dances. Unlike formal ballet troupes, the dancing here is not simply for the young.
Though many members of the company come face to face with the camera during the film, there are no talking head interviews. Rather, there are occasional voiceovers of memories of their beloved company mistress followed by examples of dance movements they had worked with her on during their time in the company. All of these pieces have been filmed in real life locations, and backdrops of sites in Wuppertal like an elevated train track, a factory lot, a glass solarium, a pool, and a river add visual vivacity to the unusual movements accomplished in terpsichore. Wenders has also added in a couple of key places the few available film clips of Pina Bausch dancing in her own creations. Though obviously not in 3D and in a different aspect ratio than the rest of the film, these moments are integrated so smoothly and lovingly into the film that no one should mind, and in fact when the dancer who assumes the role takes over after the film clip ends, the effect couldn’t be more eerie as if Pina herself were in the midst of her company and giving approval to what they’re doing.
3D implementation – 4/5
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is exemplary throughout, and color is beautifully handled with no blooming in the reds or greens which pop up occasionally in clothes and backgrounds. Flesh tones are natural as well. Black levels are superb and are especially notable in the climactic “Vollmond” piece danced in water. The few subtitles needed for the voiceovers are printed in white and are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.
Wim Wenders became a serious advocate of 3D while working in the medium, and while he’s made sure there are no trick effects that draw one’s attention away from the bodies and movement, there are some occasional water droplets and leaves blown with a leaf blower that seem to float outward. 3D really adds incredible depth to the image making the stage extend almost into the limitless distance on occasion, and even in the moments that are clearly filmed in an opera house, the stage seems about five times deeper than it actually would be. And the dancers moving on various planes throughout the piece do have a way of placing the viewer right in among them on occasion making the 3D version definitely the one to see.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is stronger across the front soundstage than it is in the rears. The music which is constant does occasionally offer a truly immersive experience for the viewer/listener (particularly in the opening piece “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky) but its immersive quality is sometimes a little fleeting. It has been beautifully recorded, of course. The few bits of dialogue are presented in the center channel.
The audio commentary by director Wim Wenders if offered on both the 3D and 2D discs. It’s a thorough explanation about the entire filming experience from pre-production woes to the finished product with only a few lapses into silence from time to time.
On the 3D disc are also two bonus features presented in 3D and 1080p:
“The Making of Pina” is a thorough 45 ½-minute behind-the-scenes look at the production of the film from beginning to end. Wenders narrates and covers all of the same material here that is mentioned in the audio commentary, so one pressed for time might come here and skip the other. He talks about pre-production plans, the sudden death of his friend, and the subsequent planning and filming of each of the four main dance pieces and the dancers’ solo moments as well as the work with 3D which brought forth problems and subsequent solutions which were always found to get around the issues.
There are fourteen deleted scenes which must be chosen separately. There is no “Play All” feature for these scraps from the dances and some solo segments. Wim Wenders offers optional commentary for the deletions.
On the 2D disc are the above bonus features and these additional ones (in 1080p unless otherwise noted):
There are behind-the-scenes shots of filming the four dances (each gets its own brief section) along with a section of shooting various solo moments. Again, there is no “Play All” feature for these sequences.
A 2011 interview with director Wim Wenders made to publicize the theatrical release of Pina contains again the same anecdotes he has shared in the commentary and the “making of” documentary above. It runs 22 ½ minutes in 1080i.
The theatrical trailer runs 1 ¾ minutes.
The enclosed 37-page booklet contains the chapter listing, the cast and crew lists, stills from the movie, a listing of all of the dance pieces in the film and a gallery of the dancers featured in the movie, poet Siri Hustvedt’s celebration of the film, some comments on her own work by choreographer Pina Bausch made in 2007, and Wim Wenders’ own tribute to his friend.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
4.5/5 (not an average)
A startlingly unique dance film that authenticates and celebrates some of the work of dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch, Pina gives dance a unique perspective in 3D for viewers who want to get up close and personal with an unusual array of older and younger terpsichorean performers. Criterion’s first foray into 3D is a successful one especially with two of the bonus features also being presented in 3D. Highly recommended for those willing to try something very different.