Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jason watches PINA in 3-D

Shhh...don't tell anyone, but I snuck away from SFIFF and cheated on it with this movie. But I think it's a fair rule to say you're allowed to cheat as long is it's with someone hot as this.So about a year ago I saw (actually at SFIFF) Werner Herzog's CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS in 3-D, and it completely reinvented in my mind how 3-D movies should work (note: I never actually got a chance to check it out in 2-D.) I realized a rule (which I shall call Jason's Rule of 3-D)--that when 3-D works, it works because it's putting depth into the screen, not throwing stuff out of the screen at you. The screen forms a box that is a view to another world, but the theater, audience, etc. are not a part of that world. So when 3-D tries to jump out of the screen, it breaks the illusion of the box creating a separate world, and it's revealed to be nothing but gimmicky bullshit. The key is action into the screen, not out of it. And looking back, the best scenes of great 3-D movies follow this rule, and the scenes that bug me break it. Well, about a year later I finally saw Wim Wenders' entry into the 3-D field, his homage to famed dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch. And he has made me reexamine the Jason Rule.

Wenders uses into and towards the screen in pretty much equal parts, but 99% of the time the action towards the screen stops just short of action out of the screen. There are two bits--one with kicking around leaves, one with splashing around water--where the action actually flies out of the screen. And in those moments I admit the words "gimmicky bullshit" flashed through my mind ever so briefly. But the movie is so beautiful, and the 3-D so effective in the rest of it, that the words left my mind as quickly as they appeared.

Now, why was the 3-D so effective in PINA? Two reasons I could see, both relying on the fact that it's all about dancing. First of all, dance is all about the exploration and discovery of the space around you. So, in fact, the movie paradoxically gives us more of a 3-D sense of that space than watching live dance. It kind of becomes artificial how hyper-real the sense of space is. In any other context, this would actually be a bad thing, but since dance explores space, exploring that space cinematically complements it well. Secondly, the world inside the screen is a world of performance, while the world outside the screen is the world of people watching a performance. So a bit of judicious intrusion between worlds actually works very, very well. In some scenes, it actually includes a view of the first few rows of a theater, which meant I wasn't really in my customary front row center seat. Some friends warned me about this before and jokes I might be upset I'm not front row center. But I was more pleased to be inside the world of the movie anyway.

As for the movie as a whole--it's about dance. It's visual, exciting, beautiful...graceful, inventive, funny. I'm pretty sure those are all qualities that could also be captured in 2-D. I'm not sure if I'm ready to declare 3-D necessary for this movie, but I'm easily certain that 3-D improves it greatly.

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 282,640
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