Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Pina Bausch was a much-loved German choreographer whose work was unlike anybody else's, incorporating earth, water, stones and city streets into music and movement. She was greatly admired by German director Wim Wenders, who delayed the notion of filming her work until the recent developments in 3-D. It is an irony that as he was preparing "Pina," the choreographer discovered she had cancer and died a few days before filming began.
Ideally, Pina and her voice would have stood at the center of this film. Hauntingly, it seems to circle the empty space she left behind. There are only a few obviously dated shots of her. And there are the memories of her dancers. Admission to the close ranks of her troupe was an arduous and demanding process, and we sense her dancers are as closely associated as the nuns or monks in a cloister. As they speak of her, their voices are reverential. We do not need to be told she very recently died; we hear the sorrow and shock in their voices.
We do not, indeed, even see them speaking. Wenders uses techniques to set their voices aside from their physical presence. Instead of talking heads, he uses carefully composed closeups, and we hear their thoughts in voiceover. Some look at the camera, some into space. They are young, middle-aged, older, coming from all races, representing (perhaps she thought) the human race.
How can words describe dance? All I can tell you is what I saw. There are four dance pieces here, mixed together, none seen straight from start to finish. One of them, titled "Cafe Mueller," I remembered seeing in Pedro Almodovar's "Talk to Her" (2002), in which dancers wander blindly in a room where other dancers rearrange chairs and tables so that in their wanderings they might fall over them. The parallel with life is there to be seen.