For five weeks, Chantal Akerman followed Pina Bausch and her dancers from the Tanztheater Wuppertal to Venice, Milan and Avignon. Using scenes from performances, rehearsals and preparations, the director tries to evoke in images the artistic world and imagination of the German choreographer.
The idea for Chantal Akerman’s film grew from her observation: “When I watch a show by Pina Bausch, I feel a very strong emotion that I can’t quite define, perhaps it’s happiness. But there are moments when I have to protect myself from what’s being expressed, and close my eyes, and I don’t understand why.” An ambitious programme, a superb examination of art and a challenge for cinema that, in principle, cannot close its eyes when the camera’s rolling but does have the leisure to blink via the intermediary of the editing. “Un jour Pina a demandé” is unlike films that document creation as a process – with a beginning, a middle and an end – and chooses (unsurprisingly, coming from Akerman) to put together long still frames of highlights and “quiet moments”. And it’s very successful – the film doesn’t answer any questions, but lies in wait for the mystery, disconcertingly probing the birth of inspiration and emotion with eyes wide open whilst at the same time opening viewers’ eyes too.
Programmer, teacher and critic
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