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Telluride 2011: 'Into the Abyss' vs. 'Pina' in a Documentary Doubleheader

“At age 16 I was as dumb as I could get,” he said. Many would argue that Herzog’s crazy and daring side never disappeared, just that he spun it into a useful medium and a fascinating career as a filmmaker. This latest work ends with a question from a former corrections official who supervised more than 120 executions before quitting. Referencing the dates on gravestones that indicate year of birth and year of death with a blank hyphen in between, he asks: “How you gonna live your dash?”

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was in the audience at the screening, and so was Ken Burns, who joked to a friend outside the theater afterwards that Herzog is “turning into an old softie.”

Running over to Wenders’ Pina was a much needed tonic for the darkness of Herzog’s film, but it no less explores how people express despair, desire, longing and loneliness – in this case, through dancing. There’s no question that the film, which played today at the Galaxy Theatre, has startling moments where image and motion combine in beautiful ways, such as ensemble dances on a stage covered first with fine dirt then with rain and rock.

Throughout, Bausch’s international dance troupe takes challenges to express joy or the pleasure of movement or longing in everything from industrial and urban spaces to natural landscapes and stage sets filled with chairs. The dances are never less than inventive but the episodic, narrativeless nature of the film, which gives each of the dozens of dancers their moment, makes it feel much longer than its 103 minutes. And almost no biographical information about Bausch is given. Still, her mission to “dance with love” is hard to argue with.

Pina was preceded by a 3D Pixar short titled La Luna that continues the animation company’s streak of making short films sweet and wondrous to the point of sickness. A boy rows into the ocean with two old timers to discover that, to his surprise and delight, the moon does not change phases naturally.