"On August 7th 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between New York’s twin towers, then the world’s tallest buildings. After nearly an hour dancing on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released."
I’m surprised at how interesting some documentaries are. I mean, who would imagine that a documentary about a French high wire walker would become the critics' darling and garner so many awards? Man on Wire is filmed as a docudrama in the same vein as my favorite documentary—Touching the Void. And like Touching the Void, we know the men live to tell their stories, but that doesn’t subtract from the suspense in the least.
I don’t even know where to begin describing Man on Wire. It’s like four films rolled into one. Man on Wire is 1) a short history on the design and construction of the World Trade Center 2) a crime caper shot in black & white 3) a love story between a man, a woman, and two buildings 4) like an acquaintance's very interesting home movies.
Philippe Petit was a boy who loved to climb trees. He grew into a young man who loved to climb bridges. He became Man on Wire in 1974 when he walked 200 feet between the tallest buildings in the world. How did he get so many people to assist him in this illegal act? Petit is one of those rare, charismatic individuals who lives life on the edge and whose joy for adventure is so exhilarating that others just want to be near him. The interviews with his friends show their amazement even 34 years later at pulling off a stunt of this magnitude.
If you suffer from vertigo like I do, then you might have to turn away from the scenes of Petit and his accomplices sitting and standing on the ledges of the towers. At one point the wind is blowing so hard at that height that a photo shows Petit holding on to a pole as his body is blown horizontal.
I was disappointed that Man on Wire didn't question Petit about his feelings on the collapse of the towers on September 11. I imagine he cried like most of us did, only for different reasons.
Man on Wire is based on Philippe Petit's book To Reach the Clouds. The documentary won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, a BAFTA for Outstanding British Film, a Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival, and 20 more major awards.
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