The Academy just announced its short list of nine candidates
for Best Foreign Language Film Oscars.
Belgium, "Bullhead," Michael R. Roskam, director;
Canada, "Monsieur Lazhar," Philippe Falardeau, director;
Denmark, "Superclásico," Ole Christian Madsen, director;
Germany, "Pina," Wim Wenders, director;
Iran, "A Separation," Asghar Farhadi, director;
Israel, "Footnote," Joseph Cedar, director;
Morocco, "Omar Killed Me," Roschdy Zem, director;
Poland, "In Darkness," Agnieszka Holland, director;
Taiwan, "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale," Wei Te-sheng,
The final list of five will be announced on January 24 along with
all the other nominees. Meanwhile, here's a conversation I had last September
during the Toronto International Film Festival with "Pina" director, the
legendary auteur Wim Wenders.
PK: I walked by a screening yesterday with hundreds of people in line and I asked
somebody which movie it was and they said it was "Pina."
Do you think you have a hit on your hands?
WW: People who have no clue about Pina Bausch nor about
dance and respond to it. It speaks to people who are not dance aficiandoes who
don't really know anything about it and frankly didn't care. But I made it for people who don't know that this
PK: You were like that kind of person yourself when you
first saw her perform?
WW: Exactly. I was one of these people with the attitude
that it's not for me. Include me out.
PK: I was one of those people, too. They just seemed to be people
stomping around on stage. I felt that way about Cuban music before I saw the "Buena
Vista Social Club" (1999). Do you think this might also get an Oscar nomination?
WW: It is officially a German entry since yesterday, which
came as a big surprise to me because they don't normally choose documentary
films for this. I don't know what it means in terms of actual nominations. It's
doesn't mean anything for the time being because it still has to be nominated.
And I hope it has a chance because it is such an usual documentary. But some of
it is almost not a documentary because choreography, as such, is fiction. And
if you're filming fiction, what does that
make it? Filmed fiction?
PK: So Werner Herzog's 3D movie "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" got passed over?
WW: It can't be considered because it would have had to be
considered last year. I spoke to Werner in Telluride and asked him about it and
he said, no it can't be nominated because it was up last year.
PK: You've seen it?
WW: I've seen it. In Telluride
PK: And is your approach to 3D similar to his?
WW: I think it's very different. My approach to 3D was...
that 3D was a solution to 20 years of desiring to make it [this movie] but not
knowing how to possibly do it. 3D came as the perfect solution. Around 2007 the
very first film I saw in 3D was a concert film and that showed to me the possible potential
of a 3D film. Until then it had never crossed my mind. 3D didn't exist anymore,
it had disappeared 50 years or so. So I made it in 3D and we really prepared for two years to shoot this film.
We worked hard on solving the initial
flaws 3D has, and still has. But Werner
went very spontaneously into his adventures and had very little time to prepare
and actually to do it.
PK: What were those flaws?
WW: They came as sort of a shock. When we did our first
tests in early 2008 or late 2007 we used
our prototype equipment and we shot outdoors. It was a little bit like the Lumiére
Brothers taking the camera out of the factory and filming for the first time.
So I told my assistant to run around in
front of the camera. After all, we were going to shoot dance and wanted to see
how it would look. True, he couldn't dance but he could move around, make arm
movements and run around. A couple of hours later we saw it on the screen and
it was a disaster. The technology did in
terms of depth and space all we were hoping for; beautiful. In terms of
movement it was a freaking disaster. Movement was not recorded at all. No. My
assistant when he was running, his arms and legs were a full-on Indian goddess.
PK: It still that way in some 3D movies...
WW: It's a problem . But it's a problem much more of
projection than of recording. The real solution to the inherent stroboscoping
in 3D is to film it at a higher frame rate but that unfortunately is not an
option. As James Cameron himself also found out, he also realized the same
problem. There are projection systems that would handle that increased frame rate but
they are expensive. The solution would be to take the rubbish out that they're
using now and put these new projectors in. Only they cost ten times as much.
They would commit suicide.
PK: They probably think the audiences don't care anyway.
WW: Well, that is another question. Anyway, we worked hard on
the problem and we didn't quite solve it but we made it more pleasant and agreeable
and learned how to deal with it and learned to avoid things that made it
obvious and slowly 3D became what I was hoping for, became more natural. A little
bit more elegant.
PK: Your documentaries tend to be about artistic figures who
are significant in your life like Ozu and Nicholas Ray. Why do you make
documentaries on this subject and how does Pina's art resonate with you
WW: Directors, designers, Cuban musician - I'm very
interested in the creative process in other
crafts and arts. One of the last adventures left on our planet is creativity. I
was flabbergasted when I first encountered Pina's art because I realized it was
related in many ways to cinema. We also worked with actors and put them in
front of the cameras and tell them what to do. I remember Nicholas Ray when we were making that movie ["Lightning
and at the time he told me "I
taught James Dean how to walk." It may be a tall tale but there is truth to it.
As film directors we do deal with body language. Dance is all about that. So when
I saw Pina's work for the first time and was confronted with her way of
working and seeing I realized that in that field of body language I as a filmmaker was a bloody beginner and
almost illiterate in comparison to how she deciphered that language. My entire profession's understanding of that language was rudimentary.
That interested me, to find out what enabled her to see so much more than we
Like Pina, we have
sets and we have locations and we have stories, most of all. And the music is
something we share one of our main links in the beginning was that we loved music so much and similar music. But in
filmmaking you have all these other things that can pull you through, the story
more than anything. In dance that is all taken away; what's left over is the
body and what you can tell with the body. And that is so much more than I ever
When I saw my first piece, "Café Muller,"
25 years ago, I was shell-shocked that this
woman who I didn't know yet showed me more about men and women in 38 minutes than, yeah, the entire history of
cinema . And she didn't use a single
word. She had these six people and this fantastic music by Henry Purcell and a blank set with some chairs in it, and
what you get out of it is more than all of cinema's gigantic efforts and
production values and storylines and casts. She was telling me more about life
and love and separation and loss than any movie I ever saw.
PK: It was humbling?
W. It was humbling. It is - it's also enriching. It was a
fantastic discovery because I realized there's a whole palette I don't even
know and there's a whole range of expression that I'm not using. It was my body
that told me this; it understood it.
PK: Do you dance, yourself, by the way?
WW: I love it!
PK: You do?
WW: Yeah. We do it at parties. Or sometimes even on my own
at home listening to music.
PK: There's one thing about Pina that everybody that talks
about her shares - this ecstatic recollection of her effect on them. It's
almost like a cult-like thing. Do you know if there's any negative aspect to
that because I've read some comments that she was sometimes more tyrannical
than was necessary.
WW: Pina was very hard on herself and very demanding. And
extremely demanding of her dancers. And I mean you heard some of the stories.
Some of these people worked for her for years and years and they never got a
single criticism. They were only told, "keep searching." And as Ruth Amarante says in the film, only
once in 20 years did she speak to her she told her "you've got to get more
crazy," and that was the only comment. You could consider that sort of cruel to comment so little and to
give so little advice but ithat was, in effect, what her whole work was about.
It was about, a sense of identity and she didn't want to ask the dancers to do
something that she would tell them that she wanted them to find out the truth
PK: It's a process you can only do by yourself.
WW: Yeah. She never told anybody that things were fantastic.
She never gave anybody a compliment, and I know because I worked with these people and if I said "that was
fantastic" they'd look at me with big eyes and said nobody ever
told us that.
PK: That's a little harsh.
I don't know... It was, it made a lot of sense. Pina loved
these people very much but you gotta be cruel to be kind to get the best our of
somebody and Pina really wanted to get the best out of everybody, out of all
her dancers, and really wanted them to be at their best. And to force somebody
to be at their best, sometimes kindness isn't the right way and I'm not saying
that Pina was cruel but Pina was tough.
PK: Tougher than you?
WW: She was tough and she was tough on herself. She was more
tough on herself than anybody else, but because she was so tough on herself she
also had a right to be demanding of other people. Actually, I know that is true
from filmmaking, from my crews. If you work on something, whatever craft you
do, whether cameraman or makeup, whatever you do, it is exhilarating if you
realize that that was the best you can do. At first it might be very tough, but
afterwards there is no greater satisfaction when you realize I couldn't do
better. There I was at my best.
PK: Are you working an a new film? Would it be in 3D?
WW: I'm preparing features. Insofar as I'm writing it I'm
thinking about it I'm trying to write for some actors that I know .. I always
think it's nice to know who you're
writing for. I'm trying to write a story that wants to be told in 3D and should
be told in 3D and I was lucky that with Pina. dance and 3D were made for each
other. I'm trying to write a story where that would work as work equally well. I think a lot of people, not everyone, but a
lot of people are trying to write a film that deserves and needs and should be
shot in 3D. Because most of the stuff out there doesn't need it at all.