“ Genre: Documentary / Theatrical Release: 2007 / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: James Marsh / Actors: Ardis Campbell, David Demato, David Frank, Aaron Haskell, Paul McGill ... / DVD released 2008-12-26 at Icon Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Man on Wire is a British documentary film released in 2008, directed by James Marsh. The film concerns Philippe Petit, a French man who in 1974 set up a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and proceeded to walk back and forth across it for an hour whilst the public looke don in awe.
This was labelled "the artistic crime of the century" and it is easy to see why. The film is set out like a crime film, showing Petit and his team of accomplices planning their break-in to the World Trade Centre, and the intricate details of the plot, however there is nothing malicious in his crime at all. It is an incredibly beautiful film, not portraying Petit in a bad light at all, but simply as the architect of a wonderful display for the benefit of everyone watching. The film combines a selection of rare footage of the event as well as interviews with Petit, his accomplices and other people involved. It also features reconstruction of Petit in his childhood and during the break-in.
It is fascinating to see him in the act, and even more so to observe the amount of preparation that went into it. The reconstruction of the break-in to the World Trade Centre is gripping, and I was amazed at how well-planned the whole affair was.
I also liked the fact that there was no mention of the 9/11 attacks which occurred at the World Trade Centre 27 years later, as it would have been easy to get some dramatic effect out of the fact that the building where this beautiful act happened was the same place where so much suffering later occurred. However I think the film much better for this lack of mention.
It is fascinating to watch and an incredibly moving film. Although Petit was arrested for it, you cannot help but admire him and feel that what he did was an amazing thing. This film has been showered with awards for good reason, and I recommend it to anyone who has not seen it.
We watched this documentary at school and I was quite excited. This is a doc telling the true story of Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker who planned and executed a walk across the twin towers in 1974.
The film is set out almost like a heist film in which the planning is discussed and set out, with interviews describing what was done from a thought to the actual feat. Throughout the movie you can really see Philippe's passion to impress, his rebellious attitude and pride really revealing his passion to achieve this "dream".
I particularly liked how they planned the trajectory of the wire; I found that truly interesting, how they drew out different methods and tried out arrows and throws and the drawings of fishing rods and tennis balls etc really made me like the characters and the fun aspect of their personality.
The actual feat I felt could've been played as a video footage from one end to the other- perhaps this didn't exist, but using photo footage I found it anti-climatic and it was too interspersed with interviews, though the photos were impressive and I did really find this whole feat absolutely spectacular, though this documentary less so.
I felt the doc was far too long and all I really wanted to see was him actually walking across the twin towers, which was left right till the end, and it didn't even finish there. The interviews were insubstantially entertaining-ish, and really dragged it out.
Personally, this would've worked better as a short hour long TV documentary. I found that I was slightly bored throughout and there were only a few uplifting moments.
The DVD can be purchased for under £5 on Amazon.co.uk. "The artistic crime of the century" indeed.
Man on Wire is not a film starring Denzel Washington about a corrupt cop, it is possibly the greatest documentary ever made.
The story is about Philippe Petit, a French wirewalker, who walked on a wire 1,350 feet between the tops of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Upon touching down at ground level he was immediately arrested, but this film is about why a man would want to do this and how he did it.
Petit comes across as a man driven by a romantic desire to achieve death defying feats (He previously did similar stunts at Sydney Harbour Bridge and Notre Dame Cathedral. He is less scared of falling to his death than being stopped from attempting his walk.
The documentary becomes so exciting as we follow Petit in explaining how the wire walk was organised logistically by Philippe his then girlfriend, Annie (A woman who he cheated on days after the feat as she accepts that he entered the world of celebrity), plus a wide array of American's of varying degrees of sanity. There are re-enactments of the narrative done in a way that simply makes you feel more a part of this daring, romanticised ruse.
The film doesn't discuss subsequent events at the Twin Towers, although these are obviously not far from the viewers mind at any point whilst watching this wonderful film.
There are excellent clips from Philippe's home video files of his practice for the event in beautiful French fields and there are some interesting stories of how the Twin Towers were built with wonderful footage.
The film doesn't romanticise Petit overly, it portrays him as he portrays himself, as an acrobat and entertainer in the best French traditions. He does show his obsessions at times with both the towers and himself and this makes the whole story so much more interesting, it is honest, candid, well shot and beautifully edited, This is a documentary par excellence which doesn't seek to justify its subject but in the best traditions of documentary allows them to justify themselves and through this allows us a deeper image of them as a person.
Watching Petit in action is amazing, a man at ease at great heights, this documentary explains why he did it, and in doing so offers glimpses into his unease at life on its surface.
This is a great DVD with an interesting making of section, the Director James Marsh has really gone to town on this and it is well worth the £4.44 at Amazon.
Philippe Petit is a man who had one big passion, and big ideas. Man on Wire tells his astonishing story.
Petit is a Frenchman who as a child, loved to climb. Noone found a definitive explanation of this, it was just something he loved to do. As an adult he discovered tightrope walking, which grew into his lifelong passion. He turned out to have a remarkable talent for it.
He made his living as a street performer in France, but wanted to do something amazing.
One day he rigged up a tightrope between the tallest points of Notre Dame Cathedral, and walked across it, to the bewilderment of the clergy conducting an important ceremony within the religious building.
Next, he walked the wire over the top of Sydney Harbour bridge. One day he heard that construction was underway for the then-tallest man-made structure in the world; The World Trade Centre.
Man on Wire is about a fantasy that grew into an obsession of Philippe Petit; to do the impossible, to conquer the World Trade Centre; to walk the wire between the top of the twin towers as soon as it had been built in 1974.
This film is beautiful in my opinion. It not only describes one of the biggest and most terrifying feats ever attempted by a human being, it also explores the drive behind him; why did he do this?
Petit is an extraordinary man. He believes that "life should be lived on the edge", and that "every day is a work of art".
The film is told not just from his point of view, but also from that of the people who helped him to try to realise his dream. There are candid accounts from his then-girlfriend, Annie, and his best friend Jean Francois. It goes into great detail of how they managed to bypass security at the World Trade Centre, how they would rig the wire four-hundred-and-fifty metres high, between the skyscrapers.
The story itself is incredible, but the beauty also lies in the way it is told. There are black-and-white "film noir" type reconstructions of events. All of Petit's tightroping feats mentioned in the film are depicted using actual footage and stills. The main storyteller, or narrator, is Philippe Petit himself, and that really makes Man on Wire a joy to watch. He is such an expressive person and tells each part of the story with such gripping candour.
Man on Wire took me on a rollercoaster of emotions, and by the end of it I was literally weeping.
All in all I found Man on Wire truly inspirational.
Here are some facts you might find useful before buying:
It won the Oscar in 2009 for best feature documentary.
It's approximately 194 minutes long.
Quote from Petit; "It's impossible, that's sure. So let's start working."
Some of the accounts are spoken in French, with English subtitles.
More information can be found on imdb.com
We all have regrets in life. As I write this in middle age, I think back to May 2001, when I was on a trip to New York City and staying in a hotel in downtown.
The plan had been to go up to the top of the World Trade Center, which was directly across the street from our hotel, but our daughter, who was four at the time and completely non-verbal, started to scream in the queue, scuppering our plans.
When you are younger you assume you will have the chance to do these things again, but sadly life sometimes gets in the way, or in the case of the WTC, Osama bin Laden.
I have a hazy memory from my childhood however, of the man who got on a tightrope and spent 45 minutes walking from the roof of one tower to the other. This was big news back in 1974, when I was ten, and I well recall the iconic images of this man, who I considered to be a clown, walking on a wire 1,368 feet off the ground.
Of course in childhood that number means nothing - in fact despite the TV coverage Frenchman Phillipe Petit's feat received in 1974, it wasn't until I saw the twin towers for myself on my first visit to New York 25 years later that I realised just how high up he had been, and perhaps he wasn't just a clown after all.
"Man on Wire" is a documentary that explains how Petit came to perform this highwire walk on the 7th of August 1974. And while the star of the show is always Petit, it explains how he was able to pull off the stunt with the help of a motley crew of helpers.
Phillipe Petit had been training for the walk for years. Right at the start of "Man on Wire" he retells reading about these new towers that were being built in Manhattan in a newspaper he found in the dentist's waiting room and just knowing he wanted to cross a tightrope between them.
He was self-taught and had performed similar stunts at lesser altitude on Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. However his raison d'etre was to bridge the gap between the new twin towers in New York.
What makes "Man on Wire" work is the planning of the walk, as opposed to the execution. Petit himself referred to the walk as "le coup", and through meticulous planning, fortuitous connections and a few close shaves, the film explains how it all fell into place.
The planning is similar to that for a heist - there were many visits to the building and onto the roof of the towers before the fateful day to gain information. Some of these visits were clandestine, others exposed Petit's chutzpah when he posed as a journalist interviewing workmen on the roof as his "photographer" was getting shots of places suitable for a wire to be fixed to in addition to pictures of those who toiled in the towers' construction.
Plans for how to get the wire in place in the dead of night were discussed at length and incredibly enough, the ancient bow and arrow was the final choice.
Director James Marsh uses some scenes he has recreated using actors and grainy black and white footage - and whilst one can see the reasoning for it, it's not particularly a style I liked - I was happy enough to listen to the protagonists tell their own tales without this visual addition.
Marsh however makes excellent use of the archive footage available to him - Petit seems to have been the subject of many TV and news reports over the years and there seems to be no shortage of film of him and his friends from the 1970s to help set the mood.
We are introduced to Jean Louis Blondeau, one of Petit's closest friends, who helps calculate how to make a stable highwire for "le coup". Petit's girlfriend of the time, Annie, is also featured at length in both the archive footage and in a more recent interview.
Another Frenchman, Jean-Francois Heckel, was Petit's sole accomplice on the South Tower as the highwire was put in place, after another helper chickened out as dawn broke. This man, Alan Welner, had turned up the day before to help, stoned out of his head, much to Petit's disgust. Welner admits in the film that he regularly smoked pot for 35 years, adding "there's no reason to suggest I didn't smoke pot that day".
There is lots of humour along this vein in the film - Heckel, for instance, does not speak English but even with the subtitles you will laugh at his description of hiding with Petit in very close quarters under a sack while a security guard did his tour of duty.
Marsh manages to maintain tension throughout - although we know from the start that Petit did indeed safely walk his highwire, the desire to know how on earth he managed to do it in the first place never leaves the viewer. If you don't have a head for heights you may feel a bit woozy in places - I know I did - but such is Petit's skill on the wire your fear will soon pass.
Petit is a charismatic and amusing interviewee and he tells his story with honesty and humour. He clearly has a huge ego and an unshakeable belief in his ability to walk across a wire, but he still comes across as engaging and fun. He is clearly something of a rebel who enjoys cocking a snook at authority figures - so much so he recounts the tale of "pickpocketing" the watch on the wrist of a police officer who arrested him in Australia after his walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The ending of this film is its undoing however. It leaves too many questions unanswered and once Petit came down from his 45 minute escapade, the viewer can see it was the end of an era with the dynamics of friendships and relationships forever changed but no reasons or opinions are offered.
I wanted to know what had happened in the 35 years since Petit did his walk to all these characters who had played a part, no matter how small, in his incredible feat, and yet nothing was forthcoming. We were left to assume how things had changed without actually being told - a sobbing Jean Louis Blondeau was the biggest clue really.
Overall however "Man on Wire" is a fascinating account of a job that was put together by pure, old fashioned teamwork and careful planning by people who remained in the background as Petit became forever known as the man who walked between the World Trade Center twin towers. Petit, rightly, is the star of the show however for me it was the supporting cast who really helped to tell the story of "le coup" in a film I heartily recommend.
Finally, I also realised that the man I had considered a clown for so many years was something much, much more - when he was on the wire he was a dancer and what he did was, for me anyway, the epitome of poetry in motion.
~~This is a film only review~~
***This review has previously been published by me on Ciao under the same user name***
There's a famously fine line between madness & genius, & Philippe Petit walks it - quite literally!- in this inspirational film.
He hit the headlines in 1974 when he walked a high wire strung 1350 feet up, between New York's Twin Towers, & Man On Wire tells the story.
Petit & his team describe his obsession from an early age with the Twin Towers. A self-taught tightrope walker, he walked between the towers of Notre Dame & also the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge before spending years planning the walk between the towers & eventually sneaking in at night, rigging the wire btween the two buildings & then walking on it for some forty-five minutes the next morning for an astonished crowd.
The whole team are engaging & wonderful storytellers (& mostly French, for subtitle-haters!), especially Petit who seems occasionally bonkers but mostly just full of incredible charisma & love of life & adventure. Interspersed with the talking heads shots is fascinating vintage footage of the Twin Towers' construction, & some lush stills & fabulous home movies of the team's preparations for the 'coup.'
There's also a lot of reconstruction of the night they con their way into the towers, involving some comical hide-&-seek with security guards & some near-disastrous technical problems. And although the whole film is one great build-up to the moment he walks on the wire, the event itself when it finally happens is absolutely breathtaking & at times really frightening.
I liked this film enormously: it's both sedately, beautifully shot & really gripping, & Petit & his friends are really interesting to listen to. The only thing that drove me crazy is that for a lot of the film I couldn't tell what was actual footage & what was reconstruction - I need to see it a few more times, I think. But that's fine!
Man on Wire won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2009. The film chronicles Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center. It is based on Philippe Petit's book, To Reach the Clouds. The title is named after a police report that led to Petit's arrest, after a performance that lasted more than one hour.
This is extremely involving documentary filmmaking - it is crafted like a heist film, with black and white reconstructions directed with a noirish flair that only too much befits the Frenchman's achievement. Man on Wire also presents rare footage of the preparations for the event and still photographs of the walk, and present-day interviews with the participants. Thus, it's easy to see that this is extremely comprehensive filmmaking, and whilst there's not much conflict surrounding the event, it's told in an engaging fashion thanks to the sense of spectacle, and even the sense of beauty, that can be gained from a man's sheer expression of freedom when suspended on the wire. It also does well to pretty much entirely ignore any 9/11 references at all - they're not at all really important in this context, so I'm glad the film didn't get preachy in this regard.
This highly entertaining and well-told recount of Philippe Petit's wire-walking across the Twin Towers is perhaps the most artistically competent documentary ever made, and is smart to steer clear from political sentiment regarding 9/11.
I completely fell for the hype with this film. Don't get me wrong he did a remarkable thing but if like me you had already seen a few clips on youtube or the trailer, the film doesn't really do much more than that. What he did was truly amazing but the way the story was told in this film just felt a little dry. I actually fell asleep whilst watching it because there just wasn't enough to sustain my interest. The whole documentary is leading up to him doing the walk between the towers which is obviously going to be the most interesting part, I just feel they overdid it with the planning of the walk between the towers. It started to feel a bit like filler to puff the film out a bit more as I actually feel it would've been better suited to a short film rather than feature length.
Personally i liked this documentary, it bought back memories of what happned to the twin towers, but also gives the viewer a chance to see the iconic towers in a different light.
The documentary follws Phillipe Petit's in his training, and ultimate quest for the highest wire walk, and culminates in him stretching a wire between the twin towers and wlking the gap. When the documentary begins, the towers arn't yet built. As it continues we follow the story of his planning, and him carefullly following the building of the towers. he knows all along what he wants to do, we just follow him doing it. Eventually, with the help of his friend and girlfriend, he manages to do the wire walk.
The film itself is made up of reconstructions, and also original film; shot but Phillipe Petit's friends. And a sense of danger overshadows the whole documentary, and really draws the viewer in.
The only critisism i would make is that at times the documentary drags slightly.
Man on Wire is a documentary about Phillipe Petit, an eccentric French showman who took it upon himself to illegally tight-rope walk between the twin towers for 48 minutes in 1974. I'd never even heard of this feat nor the man himself, in fact David Blaine, Evil Canival and the mind numbingly boring Yuri Gellar are probably the closest similarly minded people I was aware of.
Therefore the whole documentary was a bit of an enlightenment and although the event itself is quite amazing, I think that the documentary really brought it to life. Interviews with the life-loving Frenchman who seemingly had no reason to do the tight-rope walk other than wanting to are full of sparkly joy. The documentary also gives you a bit of background - both of the US, the trade towers and the wealthy young Parisian Phillipe Petit.
A lot of the documentary covers the planning and shows just how much work was put into it, not the tight-roping practice but actually getting the rope across the two buildings in the middle of the night. This seems a little ludicrous considering the joy, this man brought to witnesses that day. Even the cops themselves seemed to be grateful for being able to see such a miraculous event taking place - as shown in the documentary. It also shows tension between Petit and his friends before the event and I think it also gives a fair amount of credit to his support crew to emphasize that this was anything but a one-man show.
A hint of sadness can be found due to the fact that the Twin Towers are no longer with us but this largely a very informative, happy documentary about a truly magnificent event that had somehow largely missed my radar until now. I definitely recommend watching this British directed documentary.
"If you have your picture taken at Ground Zero should you smile?"
Anyone who has been to New York will know just how beautiful and elegant the skyscrapers are, the undeniable fact they make the city what it is, and if you ask me the rest of Manhattan a grubby anticlimax at street level. I was lucky enough to be in NY before 911 when the city skyline was at its most majestic, complete with the twin towers, of which I have been on the viewing deck of both The World Trade Centre and The Empire State Building, each thrilling experiences in their own way. But to be up there with the flames and black acrid smoke swirling and raging below would be a truly terrifying experience and hard to contemplate, which makes the daredevil feat of Philippe Petit all the more astounding, walking a tight rope [wire] illegally strung some 1400ft up from the sidewalk between the twin towers blustery roofs. Rather wonderfully he did an equally audacious levitation trick on Sunday night at the Oscars by jumping up on stage and balancing the golden statue on his chin when the film won in one of the minor catergories.
I think the most amazing thing about this documentary and its hero Philippe Petit is that the ebullient Frenchman is still alive today, rather incredibly the wire-walker refusing to ever wear any sort of safety harness up on the wind swept cable, only his ice cold nerves, very heavy 25ft pole and huge go for company. If he had fallen from that wire on August 6th, 1973, he would have been high enough up to have reached maximum velocity for a human being, 125mph, splattering like a clown's custard pie on the sidewalk below. We know that to be the case as we all saw and heard just that on 911, that terrifying memory constantly adding extra tension and poignancy to this movie. In fact that is a continuous deliberate undertone throughout this movie, especially at the start when we see the dramatized reconstruction of Philippe (played by Paul McGill) and his team arriving at the WTC in a suspicious white van, dressed with false identification and clothing, the covert team submerging into the car park complex with skullduggery on their minds, more than evoked memories of 1993 and the first attempt to blow up the twin towers. The movie is very clever and emotive that way.
Through a mix of interpolated archive photos and grainy film footage of the towers construction, and other background newsreel to represent the state of America in the 1970s when the towers started to go up-Nixon about to fall and Vietnam raging-we enjoy Philippe's enthusiastic narration through talking head and the layered track as he relives the events leading up to the actual day he made that astounding walk. He proudly takes us back to his early carefree borzois days of university and affluent parents, his free as a bird lifestyle enjoyed jealously as we see him with his shy girlfriend, Annie, and college friends preparing a wire between two trees in the French idyllic countryside to practice his circus skill, a remarkably clear and vibrant Super 8 film showing him at his prime at the teams training camp for the big walk. His apparent obsession with the World Trade Centre began as a young kid when he read about Americas attempt to build the worlds tallest buildings in Manhattan, and as the twin towers started to painstakingly creep up and reach for the sky, the now familiar lattice structure being brutally hauled up and swung around by powerful cranes and very brave men balancing on the precarious steel girders, so did Philippe's dream. He seemed to know the towers were going to somehow define his life one day but he had no idea how. He could also never have envisaged that they would come tumbling down in less than 5 seconds flat, what Philippe would do if he didn't get his preparation 100% correct. Strangely he's not asked or comments in the documentary on the towers collapse. One would presume the film was made some 34 years after the feat because of the memories 911 would revoke.
His first notable wire walk in a public place would be across the twin steeples of the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, followed by the Sydney Harbor Bridge supports in Australia, not the longest of walks but equally deadly if he fell the 100ft onto the enthralled tourists and traffic below. After being arrested the cheeky Frenchman would even pick the wallet of one of the Aussie coppers to prove his fearlessness to himself and his team of riggers for the far more dangerous feats to come, some banned from visiting Down Under ever again.
The bulk of the film is Philippe talking about the planning, execution and the tensions born out of the that between him and the group of friends and volunteers for the 'big one', an extremely comical scene of one of many recreated by actors in the film where the team had a stand off with an overly keen security officer that had them hiding under a tarpaulin pretending to be a desk, delaying the cable stringing considerably until the middle of the new York night, an example of the farcical nature of these illegal walks.
Seeing the real team in action back then and then talking to camera today you can see the feat is still something they are very proud of. Philippe describes it as modern art and I think you can't really argue with that. It must have been an incredible thing to see if you looked up in downtown Manhattan in 1973 and there's some bloke the size of an ant walking between the towers. Although there's no filmed evidence of the actual walk there are clear witness accounts by the arresting police officers at one end of the cable, Philippe taunting them by walking back to the middle of the cable some eight or nine times and then, rather amazingly, kneeling and then lying down in the middle to strike the cross of Christ, shouting Gaelic insults in that arrogant way only the French can do. He was on the wire for a mind boggling, knee trembling 45 minutes!! He was only called back from his extreme showboating when one of his team on the other tower warned him the cops were going to pluck him off the line with a helicopter, which would deliver a fatal rotor blade backwash. The title, 'Man on Wire', refers to the name given to the crazy Frenchman on the NYPD police arrest report of the day.
The film is beautifully scored and edited and you are so enthralled by this amazing guy and his feat that you dot notice 50% of it this is sub-titled. But the real appeal is the shear bravado of the whole thing, no 'War on Terror' or health & safety to deter the people who are the ones who movie the gene pool on with amazing feats of bravery and innovation. The act of stringing the cable between the two towers was a 5 hour operation in itself. And yes they did use a bow and arrow to fire it across the gap. This is a truly wonderful piece of documentary film making and deserves your attention if you have run out of bland formulaic Hollywood movies to rent.
Philippe Petit ... Himself
Annie Allix ... Herself
Jean-Louis Blondeau ... Himself
Ardis Campbell ... Annie
David Demato ... Jean Louis
David Forman ... Himself
David Roland Frank ... Alan
Barry Greenhouse ... Himself
Aaron Haskell ... Jean Francois
Jean François Heckel ... Himself
Paul McGill ... Philippe Petit
Jim Moore ... Himself
Alan Welner ... Himself
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Imdb.com scores it 8.1 out of 10.0 from 4,671 votes
RuN TiMe: 90 minutes
£3.95 per night rental at Blockbusters or rent any three premium films for £10.0 for 3 nights
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I originally visited New York City for the first time in 1999 - Going to the top of the World Trade Center was the undoubted highlight. Feeling the wind through your hair standing on the top of those enormous buildings, straining to see the tiny figure of the Statue of Liberty - Its a memory i'll never forget
Man On Wire is a startling, life-affirming documentary about the obsession of one man to walk a tightrope between the newly built towers. Philippe Petit had previously walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in similar fashion (as shown in the film) and spent many years perfecting the art of high risk tightrope walking.
Although a relatively simple storyline, Man On Wire succeeds because it is more than a documentary. The tale of how they managed to sneak onto the top of the buildings acts as a tense thriller in itself. Petit talks with real fondness about the twin towers, and the impression they made on him when he first set eyes on them. There is real joy in his eyes as he revisits the experience.
Unfortunately, there is no video footage of Petit walking across, the act itself is told in a series of wonderful still photos, each one highlighting the massive risk as well as the sheer joy of the act. The grudgingly admiration of the Police as they wait to arrest him is clear, as they watch on in fascination. Eventually, the only punishment that Petit found upon himself was to perform a public show for the people of New York (Which he gladly did)
All in all, a wonderful, full of life story, told with real respect and joy - And a fantastic tribute to sadly departed beauty of the towers.
Directed by James Marsh, MAN ON WIRE is a documentary film telling the story of Philippe Petit, a Frenchman who had the audacity to illegally tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974.
The event itself is shown (obviously towards the end of the film, as the first sections of the film detail the planning and preparation required to go into such a feat) and it realy is a breathtaking experience. How anyone would be crazy enough to do such a thing is really beyond me.
Which brings me to Petit himself. When watching the film I found him to be really arrogant and this affected my enjoyment of the film. I suppose that arrogance is a prerequisite for anyone who is going to do such a thing and so is to be expected, but that doesn't take away from my feelings about him as he is represented in the film.
This is a film well worth watching, in order to see the absolute craziness that people can demonstrate, just be prepared to be annoyed by the film's protagonist.
When I originally heard the premise behind this film I was not really that impressed however I'm glad that I gave it a chance as it turned into a fascinating account of the time when a man carried out a hugely dangerous stunt, to walk between the twin towers in New York on a high wire, there is added poignancy to this whole event after the towers were destroyed during the infamous terrorist attacks.
Phillipe Pretit is best described as someone a little bit crazy who is truly happy while walking on a high wire, the whole stunt which took under an hour to complete and resulted in his arrest took about eight months to plan. This film is really a documentary and is a fascinating insight into the whole planning process and give the viewer a real idea of the whole scale of the stunt, it is a mixture of interviews, some receations and original footage and the whole process is well blended together to make it an engaging viewing experience especially as it is an event I have no memory of indeed when I asked my parents only Mum could recall it, Dad was never one for the news, however at the time it was a massive event.
For anyone looking for a thoughtful and varied film this is a great watch and something that is well worth seeing.
On September 11 2001, the world witnessed the impossible as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. Over 25 years earlier, those iconic towers had witnessed another happier, yet equally impossible event - as a man walked between them for 47 minutes on nothing more than a tight-rope wire. Man on Wire is his story.
The documentary unfolds using a mixture of fairly traditional talking head interviews with the main plotters behind the stunt, a smattering of dramatic reconstructions of the events and actual footage of planning meetings between the team.
It proves to be a fascinating insight into how this incredible stunt (and others - the team also organised a walk across Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sydney Harbour Bridge!) came to pass and the sheer amount of work and planning that went into them. It shows how the team worked incredibly hard, jetting backwards and forwards between France and America to plan the escapade to the tiniest detail. Yet, at the same time, what makes them so appealing is that for all their planning, for all their previous experience, for all their focus and determination, they often come across as endearingly naïve and amateur - both then and even in their talking head interviews now.
Where the documentary is less strong is with regards to the "Why". It's an issue which is never really explored to any great degree. By the end of the film, you know HOW the impossible was achieved, but are still none the wiser as to what possesses a man to risk his life by doing a tightrope walk 1300 feet up in the air with no safety net. In fairness to the documentary writers, it's clear that Philippe Petit (the man in question) doesn't really know why (even to this day) himself - it was just something he felt he had to do. Even so, it would have been nice to bring in some psychological experts to offer some theories on why someone should strive so hard to do something so spectacular, yet ultimately, so pointless.
Petit himself is clearly as mad as a box of frogs which, thankfully, makes him into a very entertaining and engaging interviewee. Flamboyantly French he still retains a boyish enthusiasm which makes it impossible not to like him. The rest of the talking head interviews are more run of the mill, with his associations making fairly dull recollections of the part they played. If this was all there was to the film, it would have struggled to entertain. However, as soon as Petit comes along, he lights up the screen. His impish, infectious sense of humour and his taste for the dramatic (he often acts out what he is talking about, giving a strong visual look to normally static interviews), make for fascinating and compelling viewing.
Equally fascinating is the footage shot by the team throughout the venture - not just of the actual event, but of all the planning stages and meetings. These show the clashes, the concerns, the egos and the almost amateurish way in which the plan was put together. The footage proves an insight into the dynamics of the team, with Petit clearly its guiding light, his dominant personality over-riding all objections. Yet, it's also through these clips that you better appreciate the role played by some of the others - particularly Petit's long-time friend Jean Louis Blondeau. Blondeau, it appears was the only one with the mental strength to stand up to and take on Petit. It's here, much more so than the talking head interviews, where the support players really come to life. In fact, it's a shame the footage is used so sparingly. It is so effective, and so interesting that more clips would have been welcome.
Where the documentary fares less well is in its reconstructions. These tend to be a little theatrical, over-stylised and over-dramatic, becoming almost silly and farce-like at times. Some of the flashbacks, for example, are shot in slow motion, or silhouette, or speeded up - giving them a visual element incompatible with the style and tone of the rest of the film. It's almost as though the Director is trying to leave his calling card... "Look, I don't just do documentaries; I could handle a standard film as well." Whilst I have nothing against reconstructions, but here they are handled poorly and detract from the overall film. Personally, I'd rather have heard (and seen) more from the entertaining Petit than had these silly interludes.
For the most part, the documentary proceeds in a well-structured way. Just occasionally, though, the chronology leaps about a bit, leading to a slight moment of confusion, whilst you re-adjust and try and make sure you have the correct sequence of events in your head. On the whole, though, it's a simple, easy to follow story that will keep you gripped throughout.
Sensibly, the documentary makers choose not to drag the film out beyond its natural life-span. Once the stunt is completed, the film quickly wraps up with a few bland observations from the participants, before closing on a shot of Petit still wire-walking. Whilst it is sensible not to drag the film out, however, there is also an element of disappointment. The characters are frozen in time - stuck in 1974. We know they are all still alive, yet we know nothing about what happened after the stunt. It's clear from some a couple of veiled comments that the team broke up and there are hints that perhaps the split was not entirely amicable. Yet, we find out nothing further. I expected some updates over the final credits telling us what each of the main protagonists have done in the subsequent 35 years, but there is nothing. Their tale stops in 1974.
Man on Wire is a fascinating glimpse into a spectacular (and now, sadly unrepeatable) escapade. At the end of the film, you won't be any wiser as to WHY this death-defying act was undertaken, but you will be filled with admiration for the dedication with which one man pursued his (insane) dream.
(Incidentally, this documentary was filmed as part of the BBC's Storyville series, so the chances are it will be broadcast on terrestrial TV at some point. Keep an eye out for it - there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes!)
Man on Wire
Director: James Marsh
Running time: approx. 90 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2008