There are dozens of movies in the theaters right now that I'm dying to see. Most of the Oscar-nominees and some popcorn flicks. But I can wait for all of these to come to DVD / streaming if I have to. Except for two: "The Artist" and "Pina."
"The Artist" is the most original film I have seen in a long, long time. Much has been made of this movie about the silent film era that is itself a silent film. What is remarkable is how after a few minutes having the only sound being the beautiful score and all of the dialogue in large text cards seems totally normal. So much is conveyed by facial expressions, body language, and how the shots are composed. You are forced to pay attention to every twitch of a lip, a slight gesture of a hand.
It's also a lot of fun. Experiencing it with an audience and hearing everyone's laughter, gasps and whispers is an important part of the film. Watching it on your iphone during your commute just won't do!
"Pina," a film by director Wim Wenders, is another work of art that will not translate to the small screen very well. "Pina" is essentially a film depicting four modern dance pieces created by German choreographer Pina Bausch.
I should admit that I am at best ambivalent about modern dance. At times I am totally floored by the work of certain choreographers and dancers. But just as often I am puzzled, distressed or just bored. None of Pina's pieces were in any way boring, but I think if I were to sit through a performance of more than 30 minutes, I'm pretty sure my mind would wander or I might even doze off. It's no fault of the dancers or the art, I'm just a victim of the MTV, short-attention-span generation.
So seeing this film showing just selected sections of Pina's most celebrated pieces, interspersed with quotes from her dancers and solo dance pieces, is actually the best way for me to see modern dance. I can appreciate the movement and beauty of the dancing, and then mentally step away for a few minutes during the interludes.
One the strongest reasons why "Pina" must be seen in theaters is that it's shot in 3D. "Step Up 3D" demonstrated the potential for showing dance in a new way using 3D filming technology. While "Step Up 3D" director Jon Chu employed the cheap tricks approach to 3D, basically throwing various stuff at the viewer — bubbles, dust, bodies — "Pina" seamlessly integrates the 3D into the film, adding depth and character to already stunning images. Wenders very cleverly employs the 3D technique to these live performances that is at times breathtaking.
Besides the 3D, the dance pieces themselves are huge, deserving the wide-screen treatment. Dozens of dancers run, leap, and roll across elaborate sets employing dirt, rock, water and chairs to tremendous effect. I imagine these will look almost as impressive on a large enough HD television. But seeing it in a theater, particularly with the 3D, made me feel like I was watching a live performance.
Anyone who cares about dance as an artform needs to see this film in the theaters.
As a side note, I recently experienced the wonderful Sundance Kubuki theater in San Francisco. The Kubuki is a beautifully designed theater for lovers of film. I'm not sure I can see a movie anywhere else.