Dancing in the Streets (of Wuppertal)

Wim Wenders, Salzburg, 1982

“Giddy,” said Susan, when asked last summer about her reaction to Wim Wenders’ 3D documentary, “Pina.”  “I’m kinda giddy about the film.  Make that REALLY giddy about the film.”  And although neither the work of the eponymous subject, the legendary late choreographer Pina Bauschnor the filmmaker, usually evokes that reaction, the adjective is bullseye apt for describing the feeling caused by the hybrid.

Wenders and Bausch had discussed collaborating on a film for almost two decades until in 2008 Wenders finally saw a route to bring to the screen the exhilaration and beauty of the live performance of Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal by employing the rapidly developing new generation of digital 3D cinema.

Together they selected four pieces, “Cafe Müller,” “La Sacre du Printemps,” “Volmond” and “Kontakhof.”  But two days before the first rehearsal shoot, on June 30, 2009, Bausch died unexpectedly.  Wenders, in his grief, decided that the project could not proceed  but encouraged by Bausch’s company and staff, family, and other artists, began shooting in the the fall of 2009, with the ensemble performing on stage and outside in Wuppertal and its environs.

The 3D camera followed the Tanztheater ensemble members closely, moving through space with them and subsequently allowing viewers to experience that thrilling sensation.

(I have photographed Wim Wenders many times in almost three decades–ask me sometime to tell you a funny story, which ends with a pun from my friend Billy linking my photos and Wim’s name–and in the three images here, one thread that my work has followed is apparent.  Influenced by the great photographer August Sander and his monumental book, “People of the Twentieth Century,” I started by making full-length portraits in environments, later moving in so close, photos framing a face in a way that is rarely seen in reality–unless one is moving in with a fist or a kiss.)

“Pina” will open on Friday, December 23 in New York (Walter Reade Theater, IFC Center and BAM Rose Cinemas) and a national rollout will follow in January.

Wim Wenders, left to right: The Devil’s Graveyard, Terlingua, TX, 1983; NYC, 2006

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