‘Pina,’ Wenders’ 3D dance biography, fails to fully capture the artist

FOLLOWING the lead of fellow film legend Werner Herzog, director Wim Wenders uses 3D cameras to explore the artistic impulse in the documentary "Pina."

Herzog used 3D to mull primitive art in "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"; in the Oscar-nominated "Pina," Wenders considers the career and work of avant-garde German choreographer Pina Bausch.

Wenders' idea is to allow Pina's work to speak for itself - he uses 3D cameras to capture some of her dance pieces, augmented by commentary from members of her troupe, who explain Pina's gifts as an artist and as a motivator.

This seems like a ripping good idea. In practice, "Pina" turns out to have a few problems. Foremost: How to shoot the dance sequences? Wenders' 3D camera captures the dimensions of the cavernous stage (Pina liked to use all of it), but the placement of the camera, the choice of the angles and the edits are bound to change perspective and meaning.

Moreover, no film can capture the immediacy and personal connection of live dance - like theater in its umbilical connection to an audience. Disconnect that cord, and you lose something essential.

There is also the matter of Pina's personal history, which is entirely (and pointedly) missing in "Pina." It's one thing to allow Pina's work to explain itself, another to allow it to substitute for a biographical consideration of the artist.

You get a sense of what's missing when you listen to the voiceover contributions of Pina's dancers, who often describe her influence on their lives in terms of their personal transformation in her care.

Pina herself remains a mystery.


Directed by Wim Wenders. With Rainer Behr, Malou Airaudo, Damiano Ottavio Bigi, Ruth Amarante, Regina Advento, Ales Cucek, Jorge Puerta, Andrey Berezin, Pina Bausch, Bénédicte Billet.

Running time: 1 hours, 46 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG (for some sensuality/partial nudity and smoking).