Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Man on Wire

I had heard positive reviews of this documentary about a French daredevil who walks across a cable strung between the towers of The World Trade Center in 1974 but frankly it sounded kind of boring. I mean, I’ve been to the circus. I’ve seen tightrope walkers before. How enthralling could this documentary be?

Well, I was wrong. Man on Wire captivated me from start to finish. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of documentaries and I would place “Man on Wire” in second place, right behind Errol Morris’s “Thin Blue Line.”

One reason this film will stay with me for many years:

1. Fulfilling one’s destiny. Phillip Petit decided he would cross the Twin Towers even before they were built. He had already crossed the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and The Harbor Bridge in Sidney. But the towers would be his crowning achievement. He believed so much in his destiny that it was relatively easy for him to recruit the support he needed. He got the help from his lover, Annie Allix, his good friend, Jean-Louis Blondeau and even from Americans he had just met.

This man, Phillip Petit, was a marvel to watch on a wire. He wasn’t a performer as much as he was an artist who sculpted air. A. O. Scott from the New York Times describes it as “physical poetry.” Phillip Petit found so much joy in sky walking that I just couldn’t stop smiling. (And I’m afraid of heights.)

Petit had to overcome tremendous logistics in order to accomplish this feat. Perhaps the greatest challenge was figuring out how to string a cable across the two towers. I won’t give it away here, but it was only by trial and error and sheer ingenuity that Petit and his crew of true believers discovered how it could be done. While the logistics are fascinating, the outcome was never in doubt. Not when one believes so fervently in his dreams.

Post 9/11, the World Trade Center is gone. Like millions of Americans, I remember where I was when the plane hit the South tower. And I remember where I was when the North tower was hit. The images are burned into my brain and we as a country can never go back. But then again with James Marsh’s compelling movie, maybe we can.


Burbanked said...

We've had a children's book from the library about Petit and this amazing feat. The book was written post-9/11 and only mentions that the buildings are no longer there - but along with the amazement of the act's audacity is such a feeling of loss and sadness.

Great recommendation. I'd read so much about MOW and now I'm definitely going to rent it.

PIPER said...

An artist who sculpted air is pretty damn good.

Good review. I need to check this out.

Anonymous said...

Sounds pretty good. Thanks, dude.

Fletch said...

I take full credit for your having seen this and loving it. Please reference me by name whenever you mention this movie, as in "I saw Man on Wire [sponsored by my fake internet friend Fletch] the other day and Fletch was right - it was great!"


Oh, and maybe you can say something about all the other peeps that loved it too.

Anyway, you pretty much echoed my sentiments. I was enthralled, which I wouldn't think was possible beforehand, either. It's in my internal discussion for best film of the year, and though I'm not an avid doc watcher, it's up with my favorites there as well.

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