Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Laughter and Bleakness

Teenagers, according to the October edition of National Geographic, will do almost anything to impress their peers, including risk their lives.

This we know, but the reason proffered is that they’re investing in their future. After all, they’re going to spend more time with their friends as time goes by than with their parents.

Come to think of it, they already do. Home is where they eat, sleep, facebook (v.) and get their washing done.

So when Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) wants to keep his parents’ little nuclear family unit intact in a small Welsh town, it’s not so much out of love as self-interest.

Hell, home does have its uses. You can, for example, lose your virginity there while mum is giving her New Age ex a handjob on the beach.

Dad (Noah Taylor) is a marine scientist who is as excitable as those squids in which he takes such a keen interest. Ma is all submerged Eighties passion and played by Sally Hawkins, who could act a soup can and make it interesting.

If the plot of Submarine is predictable (boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl back) then it is done with typically quirky Anglo understatement that is, initially anyway, very funny. But after a while I started sensing an older (sensitive, self-deprecating) writer behind this teenage wannabe intellectual.

And really, how many more of these do we have to endure? Could we stop having so much of this parochial me stuff (the film is executive produced by Ben Stiller) and a little more teen spirit? A little more revolution?


If you hadn’t heard of the German choreographer Pina Bausch (I hadn't) then you’ve probably heard of Wim Wenders (if you’re over a certain age and/or of a certain disposition). Wenders, of course, is the maker of the masterful Buena Vista Social Club.

Bausch, who died in 2009 at 68, tried to find new ways of expressing oneself through dance, much as Wenders et al tried to find new ways of telling stories that didn’t reflect the above, very Americanised, plot.

Her work is quite obsessive, quite grim, occasionally joyous, but never predictable. Nor is it fashionably anti-male, though the one dance in which a group of men grope a woman on every part of her body except her privates makes the metaphor of rape perfectly clear. If she loved men deeply it doesn’t mean she was blind to their faults.

Wenders has taken the dances public: they are no longer confined to the Wuppertal Tanztheater, which Bausch ran, though she might have taken the dances on to the streets as well. So you can see a beautiful dance take place at a quarry, beneath a monorail or in a glass hall in a forest to some very interesting music.

When the dancers talk about Bausch we hear what they say and see them reacting to what they’re saying, which has a rather interesting effect.

Pina is a slightly long documentary, but it is never boring. If it lacks humour then it is still a celebration of that thing which happens between men and women, and it shows us that Bausch did so with a constantly questing, unflinching honesty.

Neil Sonnekus

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