08/10/2010 - 08/10/2010
Pina Bausch’s death in 2009 marked the loss of one of the 20th century’s greatest choreographers. This documentary traces her extraordinary life as a dancer and her pioneering choreography which changed the face of contemporary dance.
Germany 2006, 44 min
Friday, 8 October 2010, 9pm
Tapac, 100 Motions Rd, Western Springs
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Tepid eulogy falls short of its subject’s brilliance
Review by Jennifer Nikolai 09th Oct 2010
I have to start this review by declaring that I have been obsessed by the work of Pina Bausch for my entire performance career and so I am not unbiased in my approach to Anne Linsel’s Pina Bausch (2006).
Pina Bauch, the artist, is iconic in her historic contribution to the dance /theatre genre and contemporary dance. Her work and words have shaped and influenced several generations of artists and audiences. She is, to put it succinctly, Legendary!
If the packed theatre at TAPAC is any indicator, the room was clearly filled with a similar love and admiration for Pina. There was an energetic anticipation in the air, punctuated by intermittent laughter as her story unfolded. It was an audience clearly tuned in to the world of performance and invested in Bausch’s legacy.
The documentary opens with a scene that reflects the many representations we’ve seen of Pina Bausch and her process over her lengthy career. Pina sits at her studio desk, smoking, watching her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, rehearse for her production of Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). Bausch’s intelligent eyes cut through the smoke to reveal a small window into her methodical practice. For a beautiful moment we are let in.
The first ten minutes of the documentary are engaging. The director sets the scene by presenting repeated images of her work; characteristic stunning sets with carnations, sand and water (to name a few), monologues, solos of women and their hair and dresses, men in their dresses, battles between women and men, large group unison dance, and gestural repetition – performed all over the world, between the 1980’s, through to 2006.
Talking head interviews intersperse the archival footage. Included are a series of interviews of Bausch, reflecting on her own practice. She is considered, thoughtful, profound and yet, quiet and ordinary at the same time. Her dancers speak of their experiences making the work, of her impact on them as individuals, and how she lengthened their dance careers; Pina liked to work with mature dancers.
Shot in Venice at the Teatro Fenice, in corners, canals, and sun-filled piazzas set on the canals… the scenes are beautiful, and complement the reflective poignancy of the interviews.
This is documentary painting by numbers and that in the end is the overall disappointment in the film. Structurally, the documentary is extremely predictable. We were gathered to witness the impact of this incredible, iconic artist on her peers, her dancers, her audiences, but the medium was not matching her brilliance. I walked out of the screening feeling that the images of her work, the concepts that she and the artists surrounding her were addressing, were lost in the average construction of a ‘made for television’ documentary.
As the film closed, I felt that this was not so much a film about an artist who changed the face of performance in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but a tepid, if well intentioned, eulogy that made me wish the film makers had had the substance and craft to match their subject.
As a eulogy to a woman that only died in June 2009, the documentary is a tender if superficial survey of her as a humanitarian, a strict and direct choreographer, Mother, partner – some of the many sides to Pina that made those who love her work enthralled and excited to see what comes next. Unfortunately I was left hungry for a great deal more.
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