Documentary Pina, by Wim Wenders, is not the first to bring choreographer Pina Bausch to the silver screen: she had an important role right at the beginning of Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her. In the film, the lead characters watch a performance of Café Müller, which foreshadows many of the story’s themes. Now, Wenders uses dance as a way to highlight Pina herself. There could be no greater tribute to the modern dance icon, who passed away in 2009.
This month, São Paulo’s cinemas will feature yet another documentary-homage: Raul Seixas: O Início, o Fim e o Meio (‘Raul Seixas: Beginning, End and Middle). Though younger and less rock-minded folks might prefer the sure-fire blockbuster adaptation of best-seller The Hunger Games, the first chapter of a planned trilogy.
‘Dance out of love.’ These were the wise words of German choreographer Pina Bausch. And even though critical response for filmmaker Wim Wenders has been on a slippery slope ever since Wings of Desire, his last good fiction film, there’s no doubt that he – as Pina might have said – makes his films out of love.
This labour of love barely sheds any additional light on past weaker features like The Million Dollar Hotel or The End of Violence, but manages to show the director’s brilliance in the realm of documentaries. Wenders, after all, is also the mind behind, a tribute to Yasujiro Ozu (Tokio-Ga), another to Nicholas Ray (Lightning Over Water) and is single-handedly responsible for exposing a whole generation to great Cuban musicians (Buena Vista Social Club).
Pina, the director’s first experience working in 3D, is intelligent enough to bring dance to the fore, in lieu of words. Although there are a few talking heads, in the form of dancers from Tanztheater Wuppertal, a company Bausch directed for almost four decades, Wenders is mostly satisfied by simply interweaving footage from performances such as The Rite of Spring and Café Müller. It’s a good call. This editing choice, combined with the smart usage of the 3D technology, gives birth to a film that, aside from being a fitting tribute to Bausch’s greatness, is also an immersive experience.
Dir. Wim Wenders, Germany/France/UK, 2011. Pina Bausch, Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo, Ruth Amarante. 103 mins.
Brazilians over forty will surely remember Raul Seixas, from music videos that used to air on local news/variety show Fantástico. In the good old days, Seixas was a singer and composer ever-present in mainstream pop culture – at the same time his song-writing partner, and now best-selling writer, Paulo Coelho was completely anonymous, and it’s fascinating to think about the switch in how the two are now perceived; relatively speaking, Seixas has been more or less ostracised.
And even though his work has never ceased being appreciated (or even staunchly followed by a cult of avid fans), it might be accurate to say this documentary revisits Seixas’s memories and public image as one of the most controversial and important national rockers. It also presents him to younger generations in a dignified manner using rare footage and interviews with other artists, family-members and former working-partners, like Coelho.
Walter Carvalho, an experienced cinematographer (responsible for the images seen in acclaimed films like Abril Despedaçado and Lavoura Arcaica), was also co-director for the biopic of another Brazilian iconic musician, Cazuza. By portraying Raul Seixas, he excuses himself from the task of having to reinvent the wheel and puts together a documentary that focuses on its subject – not the other way around. In that sense, despite the chaotic character the film portrays, the documentary maintains a very by-the-book filmmaking style.
Dirs. Walter Carvalho and Leonardo Gudel, Brazil, 2011. Raul Seixas, Paulo Coelho, Caetano Veloso, Daniel de Oliveira, Tom Zé. Tárik de Souza, Marcelo Nova. 120 mins.
The Hunger Games is the first of a best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This cinematic adaptation is a work by Gary Ross, better known for his work as a screenwriter (we all remember Big, right? No?) than as a director (Seabiscuit, the emotion-exploitation flick starring Tobey Maguire and a horse).
The story of The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which USA are no more and, in its place, we have Panem, a country separated into districts and controlled by a city simply known as Capitol. Collins’s great insight was to imagine a reality show produced at the end of the world: every year, two young people from each district are chosen by lottery to partake in the title’s games.
It goes without saying that this isn’t a new idea. More than two decades ago, we had the still-fun The Running Man, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger also had to participate in a deadly reality show, as imagined by Stephen King’s original novella.
Instead of Schwarzenegger’s bulging muscles, Collins went with a 16-year-old girl, Katniss Everdeen, as the narrator and leading lady of her book series – a probable reason for the stories’ commercial success. On the silver screen, Katniss will be played by Jennifer Lawrence, likely a reason for the film’s success. For those with a short memory, Lawrence has already proven herself to be an excellent actress in 2010’s Winter’s Bone.
Dir. Gary Ross, USA, 2012. Jennifer Lawrence, Wes Bentley, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks. 142 mins.
In the ’80s, physician Najla returns from Italy to meet her fiancé, Sherko, in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Najla finds the setting for her rendezvous with Sherko, a member of the resistance, during Hussein’s Kurdish genocide. The film’s idea is to intertwine political subtext to the love story, but in the end, neither really works. At the very least, it’s one of the first Iraqi films to portray the country’s recent history.
Dir. Fariborz Kamkari, Switzerland/Italy, 2010. Morjana Alaoui, Ertem Eser, Mohammed Bakri, Darbaz Dara. 118 min.
In his debut film, director Eldar Rapaport explores a love triangle between Jonathan, an Argentinean immigrant named Raul and Troy, who's just back from a few years in Barcelona. Before leaving, Troy and Jonathan had a relationship that didn't end well, or rather, didn't really end – as the characters put it, they had an amazing summer, followed by a terrible autumn. As their current entanglements become more difficult to sort out, they attempt to deal with a difficult past in order to be able to sort out their present.
Dir. Eldar Rapaport, USA, 2011. Murray Bartlett, Daniel Dugan, Adrian Gonzalez, Hillary Banks. 100 mins.