REVIEW: The Salt of the Earth

13 07 2015

SaltThe personal journey that gave us documentary “The Salt of the Earth” bears a similarity to one of my favorite non-fiction films, Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell.”  Co-director Juliano Ribiero Salgado embarks making this film (with renowned German director Wim Wenders) as a means of discovering his father Sebastião, just as Polley discovered her mother through the process of compiling her own film.

Salgado seeks that entry point not through his life, however, but through his work.  Throughout Juliano’s childhood, Sebastião was a mystical figure because of the frequent travels his vocation required.  He was no run-of-the-mill salesman, though; Sebastião Salgado and his camera penetrated the psyche of some of the most remote, impoverished corners of the world.

As a photographer, Salgado takes an unconventional look at his subjects.  And, no, I am not referring to the epic scope of his pictures.  Salgado actually began his career not as an artist but as an economist.  His knowledge of capitalism and global corruption clearly informs the tragedy and urgency present in his pictures.

Salgado and Wenders do a great job providing a balance of curatorial notes on the pictures with a wondrous behind-the-scenes look at how Sebastião Salgado captured them.  The work, and the man who produces it, deserves consideration as both aesthetics and anthropology.  Especially in the segments of “The Salt of the Earth” that shine a harsh light on the Rwandan genocide – “the worst of our species,” as Sebastião Salgado dubbed it – the photos are now likely to receive it by a much wider audience than before.  B / 2halfstars





REVIEW: Pina

8 03 2012

Not since “Avatar” has any film so gloriously realized the transformative potential of 3D  as Wim Wenders has with his dance documentary “Pina.”  I don’t know what made him think to combine the technology with the choreography of the late Pina Bausch, but someone had to figure out that the best way to eat peanut butter was with jelly, too.  This may very well be the new gold standard for 3D, bringing back the “WOW!” factor in a way that I haven’t felt since leaving Pandora in 2009.

So whether you can still make it to a theater still showing “Pina” in an added dimension or you need to run down your list of Facebook friends until you find one with a 3D TV, the only way to see this movie is with the glasses on.  I’ll admit that the movie does have a limited appeal; if you can’t watch 100 minutes of Pina’s expressionist dance compositions, then the movie will just be an empty and boring experience for you.  But even if you just watch a tiny bit of the film, the cinematography and the stunning 3D will make it a few worthwhile minutes.

I am hardly an expert dance interpreter, so I myself am hardly the audience for “Pina.”  Yet even as my interest began to wane in the second half of the film, I was so in awe at the brilliance of the aesthetics on display.  Whether you understand the meaning of Pina’s work or not, Wenders makes sure you appreciate the beauty, the passion, and the physicality that allowed the piece to blossom.  He matches her unparalleled eye for dance with his own virtuosic camerawork.  Pina’s work no longer lives in old videos and old memories; Wenders captures it in vibrant life and breathes a new spirit into her choreography, communicating its magic on stage through his own magic on the screen.

His “Pina,” more of an exhibition and a memorial service than a documentary, is realized through her soul and through her dance.  While the film begins to test our patience and does not do a particularly great job in defining Pina Bausch herself, Wenders’ mushy-gushy valentine may do more for cinema than it does for dance.  His 3D actually puts you in the frame and all but makes the dancers tangible.  Now you know I would never advocate seeing a movie just to see a movie … but in the case of “Pina,” I might just make an exception.  B