Culture Lust by Angela Carone
Friday, August 8, 2008
Yesterday was the anniversary of Frenchman Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk across a cable suspended 110 stories above the ground. The cable went between the World Trade Center towers, which were the tallest buildings in the world at that time. He walked it without a safety net. He wasn't wearing a harness of any kind to save him if he slipped. Petit spent 45 minutes on that rope, carrying a balance bar and walking back and forth, kneeling down, and, at one moment, even lying down. He toyed with the police, who stood on the edge of the roof, trying to coax him off the rope. Onlookers gathered on the street below, amazed and terrified by what they saw. The new documentary Man on Wire tells Petit's story by taking its cues from caper films, so you feel the tension and suspense leading up to Peiti's famous walk. By the time we see him gliding on top of the world, we've already been treated to archival footage, artful reenactments, and interviews with Petit, who is an enthusiastic storyteller, to say the least.
I really loved this documentary. The director, James Marsh, did a great job of pulling together the material and made one courageous and wise choice: never once is 9/11 mentioned in the film. Marsh could have so easily included 9/11 commentary and remembrances to up the emotional investment of viewers, but he didn't. He let the story of Petit and his obsession serve as an homage to the towers. I promise you'll be swept up in this movie and left telling the story of Petit and his daring feat for days to come.
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