It’s my pleasure to cover the Toronto International Film Festival this year for Awards Daily. This year, many of the heavyweights at TIFF have already bowed at other festivals, so it will be fun to see which films have crossover appeal and which ones, if any, do not. The advance buzz (and the new advance-tier in the ticket lottery for high roller donors) made it difficult to get tickets for some of the hotter films. I was mildly successful in the lottery but was more so on ‘single ticket day,’ and I had my Toronto-based brother to count on for ticket exchanges. The only significant omission in my schedule is A Dangerous Method (I’m not willing to pay the $475 someone was asking on Craig’s List). I currently have a packed schedule of 26-28 films, so there will be lots to report in the next few days.
We began the first night of the festival with a documentary. It wasn’t the U2 doc From the Sky Down – it’s difficult to get a ticket for the opening night film, unless said film happens to be Score: A Hockey Musical. Our first film was Pina, the documentary on contemporary dancing directed by Wim Wenders. I’m so glad to have chosen Wim over Bono, though, because Pina is an impressive and audaciously original piece of filmmaking.
Pina is an essay on the life and work of renowned choreographer Pina Bausch. Pina appears in some archival footage, and several members of her dance troupe testify to her ingenuity and artistic inspiration. The spirit of Pina, however, lives on in her dances: the film offers four of Bausch’s famed dances in their entirety, but dispersed and intercut throughout the film. The opening dance, The Rite of Spring, is a mesmerizing and penetrating ballet through a field of earth. The film’s hindrance may be that the first number is the strongest, but all four dances are sharp and provocative, and they alternate between soundstages and exterior settings.
Aside from moving the dances outdoors, Wenders transcends the theatrical boundaries of Pina’s stage and offers a wholly cinematic rendering of her dances by shooting them in marvelous 3D. The third dimension grants one a sense of the depth and passion of Pina’s dances, as well as the opportunity to appreciate the contours and motions of the dancers’ bodies. Wenders delivers documentary in 3D just as well as Herzog does, except for the effect never detracts from the power of Pina, while the extra-sensory nature of Cave of Forgotten Dreams provided an occasional distraction. Wenders and cinematographers Helene Louvart and Jorg Widmer also choreograph the cameras with the dancers fluidly, making Pina a beautiful and artful tribute to the late Pina.
Wenders attended the screening and both introduced the film and provided a candid Q&A. The director confirmed that Pina is Germany’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. It’s an odd choice, given that the film has scant dialogue (much of which is in English), but it’s also a worthy one considering the originality and artistry of the film. Wenders also noted that he was inspired to shoot the film in 3D after seeing a U2 concert film and being amazed by the visuals: he had previously been hesitant to shoot the film in 2D, feeling that Pina’s dances would not translate well to the flatness of celluloid. Wenders also spoke on the longevity of his collaboration with Pina, which was cut short by her sudden death in 2009, but the film surely stands as a worthy tribute. Pina was a fine opener to the festival!
For Friday, I have a ticket to We Need to Talk About Kevin and I may use a voucher to add a mystery film to the daytime slot. Check back for Toronto’s take on Tilda!