Man On Wire

Posted on August 2, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Not technically a movie, but having just watched this documentary I thought it deserved at the very least a quick post.

Juxtaposing black and white reconstructions, real footage, photography and studio interviews, Man On Wire tells the story of Philippe Petit, the man who walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers.   It’s such an incredible story that it seems like it should be a film, but no one could tell this story better than Philippe himself, who speaks with such passiona and animation about his art that you are captivated from the very beginning.  The documentary is beautifully shot and flashes forward and backward from the fateful day of the crossing.  At times Phillipe is talking to himelf, in two separate studio sessions.  The use of music is perfect, as is the camera work, which seemlessly flitters between grainy ’70s footage and helicopter mounted shots, punctuated with the odd fish eye lens and even a binoculars-eye-view.

The story of the team of friends and strangers who came together to accomplish this amazing feat is almost unbelievable.  The way in which they infiltrate the World Trade Centre (amongst other famous landmarks) is scary at times, especially in the light of following events, but as one of the accomplices points out, what they were doing was “illegal, but not hurtful or mean.”

What struck me most about this documentary was the ending, which, in a story that to this point could so easily have been dreamed up in an LA boardroom, reflects the anticlimatic void left after completing such a mammoth task.  The breakdown of the relationship between Phillipe and Jean-Louis and also girlfriend Annie shows how these people had been held together by a dream that had existed since before the towers were even built.  With the dream realised, Phillipe was (excuse the pun) walking on air, but his disciples had lost their purpose.

No wonder this documentary won an Oscar amongst countless other awards.  If you missed it tonight, it should be turning up on BBCiplayer.

“To me, it’s really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope.”

-Philippe Petit


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5 Responses to “Man On Wire”

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I think this film is a perfect tribute to the Twin Towers themselves. Both the buildings and Petit are magnificent symbols of human vision and passion – great stuff indeed.

I went to see Moon last night. I set my video to record this and Top Gear. Something went wrong, they are in the library of recorded programs but it won’t play them. I was really annoyed. Maybe I will have to look at Iplayer I have never used it being somewhat of a technophobe!

I remember once years ago my brother wanted to tape Firefox (terrible Clint Eastwood movie) and I wanted to tape Smurfs: The Movie (terrible Smurfs movie) and something went wrong and neither of us got what we wanted.
Man On Wire is real good, though.

Great piece!

I love stories about people like Philippe…the sort of people who probably coloured with every crayon in the box when they were kids. A pity this film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture last year.

One other thing that I loved, was how the movie stayed on point, resisting the temptation to talk about how sad it is that the site of their caper is now gone.

I agree with that, I liked that they didn’t let the film get taken over by anything else.

Here’s the iplayer link. In theory just click and enjoy. Will only be there for a week though so be quick!

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