Thursday 28 April 2011

Wim Wenders in London

Alerted (from Canada - I love how this happens) by wood s lot, I went to see the exhibition of Wim Wenders' photographs, Places, strange and quiet, at the palatial Haunch of Venison gallery. Attracted by the sort of scene that draws him, the unexpected beauty of the odd and lost and out of scale, neglected or abandoned, I was none the less inclined to mutter that he only gets a show in these fabulous surroundings because he's a famous film director. It's true I didn't mind this in the of case Nuri Bilge Ceylan, was happy to see another facet of the work, adored his photos. And anyway, when I think about how little fashionable photography excites me, I'm not complaining about anything I find beautiful or intriguing. The photos move through bold, but modest black and white scenes to large-format shots of corners pale and lost, stark and lurid, with a lovely, often painterly eye for colour and abstraction. The last is a strange, engrossing wide-screen wonder: a damp, decaying wall painted with a mural by Os Gemeos of figures lined up as if for a firing squad. I would have taken it for a painting. Thoughts continue about photographing art. I was quite won over.

The exhibition coincides with the London opening of Wenders' new film, Pina, about the Tanztheater Wuppertal of Pina Bausch. My first experience of 3D. I was apprehensive. The bulky glasses perched over my own left deep and painful furrows in my nose, but it wasn't, as I'd feared, headache-inducing. Squirm-inducing, though, my limbs inclined to move in synch with movements that seemed so 'real', seemed to come towards me, and tiring on the eyes, which kept wanting to close. And wonderful, worth the discomforts, viscerally gorgeous and disturbing. The music, the dancing, the faces of the dancers and their words in many languages about their dead choreographer - all utterly compelling and absorbing. I wasn't familiar with Pina Bausch's work. I can see why some dislike it, call the often writhing and repetitive movements a 'pornography of pain'. But it seemed to me just bruisingly evocative of the texture of life and emotions, and the dancers a peerless animation of music. The film is a mixture of theatre and rehearsal scenes and dancing out in the streets of Wuppertal, in countryside and beside the sea. Both enclosed and open spaces work beautifully. I've always loved films about dance, how they let you get close to the dancers, their faces and muscles, and see from many viewpoints - Carlos Saura's films of Antonio Gades and his flamenco company remain vivid in my mind many years after I saw them - and 3D does deepen the experience, takes you right into space and movement. Here again in the realm of the beyond-words - is everything this week about that?


Beth said...

Thanks for all of this reportage, Jean. I'm especially taken with the final photo you included - how strange and gorgeous. It reminds me of some Iranian movies.

Dick said...

The street photo is pure Hopper behind a camera. Extraordinary. And I'm with you entirely re films about dance.