For a dance icon, a truly moving eulogy

Never mind Wrath of the Titans, Titanic 3-D, and George Lucas' souped-up, stereoscopic repurposing of Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.

The real 3-D experience of the season is Pina, Wim Wenders' shockingly beautiful and moving tribute to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch. A dance movie that brings the audience to the performance in a way a traditional documentary could never do - and in ways that even being in a theater, watching live, won't accomplish - this meditation on movement and space, transportation and transcendence is not to be missed.

There is much humor to be found in Pina, and also much reverence: Bausch, who had been talking to Wenders for years about a film collaboration, died in mid-2009, at age 68, just five days after being diagnosed with cancer. Her troupe decided to carry on, and so this documentary is a loving (and playful) eulogy, a celebration of a creative force.

If the best dance performances mirror life, then Pina - nominated for a documentary Academy Award on Tuesday - takes the mirror image and magnifies it, vitalizes it.

Wenders, armed with his 3-D camera, shoots the members of Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble in the cars of a gliding monorail, on busy street corners, on the barren ridge of an industrial wasteland, in sleek modernist buildings and elegant gardens. Many of the dancers - an ethnically and chronologically diverse crew of agile physical artists - get face time, reflecting on their relationship with Bausch, on how she impelled and inspired. (These "talking head" sequences, too, are gorgeous: close-ups of the individual dancers, with their monologues delivered in voice-over, as if we're listening in on their thoughts.)

In a 2008 speech for his friend Bausch when she was being honored by the City of Frankfurt, Wenders said "until now, movement as such has never touched me." He went on to explain how he had learned to value what body language, what human motion and force and grace, can do.

With Pina, his revelation becomes ours.

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at


Pina 3D

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. Distributed by IFC Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 46 minutes.

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