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Movies: Pina * * * *

I know about as much about contemporary dance as your average house cat, but even I have heard of Pina Bausch.

One of the most important and innovative choreographers of the postwar period, she made her name as a ballet dancer in New York in the early 60s before returning to Germany and establishing her own company in Wuppertal.

There she created such groundbreaking theatrical dance works as Rite of Spring and Café Muller. Wim Wenders, a huge admirer, had already begun shooting a film on her when Bausch died suddenly just days after being diagnosed with cancer in June of 2009.

This left the great German director with something of a dilemma, but he decided to continue his project with the help of Bausch's company, and what started as a documentary has become a moving tribute.

Bausch's recurring themes were men and women, sexual tension, society, freedom or the lack of it and the drudgery of human existence: the dances she created are powerfully evoked in a film that uses 3D technology to create sufficient depth of field to bring the dancers alive.

Performances of Bausch's most famous works are interspersed with contributions from her veteran dancers, who stare soulfully at the camera while their disembodied voices pay tribute to the departed chief.

Their devotion to her is remarkable, and they refer to her in almost Messianic terms, but as Wenders' film proves she certainly was a rare talent.

3D will only rarely be put to intelligent use, but Wenders and Werner Herzog have at least proved that it can be. In Pina, Bausch's dances are gloriously brought to life in a visually breathtaking film, both on the company's stage and around the streets of Wuppertal. As to the dances themselves, as soon as you stop trying to intellectually analyse them they start to make perfect sense.

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