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Originally published Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'Pina': a loving tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch, in 3-D

"Pina," an Oscar-nominated documentary about choreographer Pina Bausch, directed by Wim Wenders, is a loving, beautiful tribute to a brilliant artist. It's playing at Seattle's Cinerama.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 4 stars

'Pina,' a documentary by Wim Wenders. 103 minutes. Rated PG for some sensuality/partial nudity and smoking. In several languages, with English subtitles where necessary. Cinerama (moves to the Uptown Feb. 24).

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"For Pina," says the opening dedication in Wim Wenders' remarkable Oscar-nominated documentary, "by all of us, who made this film together." A unique and often sublime artistic experience, "Pina" is a 3-D dance film that immerses us in the movement, letting us feel that we could reach out and touch these dancers as they float past us. It's also a loving tribute to an artist now gone: Pina Bausch, a German choreographer noted for her uniquely dramatic brand of dance theater, died in 2009 at age 68, just as she and Wenders were finalizing plans to make a film together.

A portion of the film consists of the members of her company (Tanztheater Wuppertal) offering remembrances of her, both verbally (though some simply gaze, beautifully and wordlessly, at the camera, as if silently communicating with Bausch) and through excerpts of solos created with her. We also see Bausch herself, in archival footage, haunting the film like a pony-tailed ghost, seemingly waiflike, yet possessed of astonishing strength and ferocity in her dancing. (In "Café Müller," a 1978 work shown in both current and archival footage with Bausch dancing in the latter, she moved, a colleague tells us, "as if she'd risen from the dead.")

Wenders gives us little in the way of concrete information — we're not told the names of the dancers speaking or performing, or indeed much of anything about Bausch's life — and yet the dances tell us all that we need to know. There are four, presented in long excerpts spread throughout the film.

"Le Sacre du Printemps," performed on a stage covered in peat, is shockingly primal; its dancers, coated in dirt and sweat, move as if slicing themselves in half. In "Café Müller," a woman is frenetically wrapped and unwrapped in a man's arms; the movement has an almost frightening urgency, as if life itself depends on it. "Kontakhof," taking place in what looks to be a dance hall, alternates the company with a cast of elderly dancers; all, regardless of age, share the joy and grace of the movement. And "Vollmond," reflecting Bausch's fascination with the four elements, unites the dancers with a silvery, powerful shower of water as partner.

The dance will go on, with or without its maker, but it's hard to imagine a more beautiful goodbye.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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