Man on Wire Reviews
Made in 2008, Man on Wire elides all discussion of 9/11, and even though this was probably better for the film -- after all, what can they really say of any importance? -- watching Philippe Petit and his cohorts break into the WTC with enough equipment to set up their wire made me think that I was watching what could have been a terrorist attack instead of a crazy, effervescent Frenchman with a God complex. The film might have made me uncomfortable, but I think it's better to say that I was uncomfortable watching it.
Petit is nuts. But from a distance, he's fun to watch. I think my favorite moment was when, describing how he was looking for a small fishing wire in the dark, Petit said -- as though this is the most reasonable thing to do, right out of the "How to Find Fishing Wire in the Dark" manual, -- "I stripped naked so that with all my body I could feel for the wire." Who thinks that? Next time I lose my keys in my office, I'll give it a try.
Other critics have called the film's climax "exhilarating" and said that the film's result takes on an adventure-movie level of suspense, and though I didn't feel this, I did find the film as a whole to be entertaining and fun but not with much sophistication. The "follow your dreams" mantra that provides the film's moral center feels contrived, like something out of a Cracker Jack box.
Overall, I liked Man on Wire, and now that there are movie-goers too young to fully remember 9/11, this documentary may serve as a tribute to buildings' existence rather than a reminder of their destruction.
"1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century."
Wow, I was completely taken aback by Man on Wire. I loved the creativity by the director, James Marsh. He made the movie feel less like a documentary and more like a thriller in the way he presented it. I loved the black and white reenactments throughout. It added much more depth to the story we were listening to. The first part of the movie where the people involved in helping Philippe, and Philippe himself talked about the van ride to the towers felt so much like a bank robbery. Then later in the film, I was thrilled to find out that Philippe looked at it in the exact same way. Everything they were doing was like a heist. They had to scout out the buildings, make fake I.D. cards, sneak into the building at night, and sneak by guards. The only difference between this and a heist is the end result.
Man on Wire is a fabulous documentary on a compelling man, Philippe Petit, and his dream to tightrope between the World Trade Centers. Why? There is no why. He was sitting in a dentist office, reading a magazine, where he saw a picture of what the towers would look like when they were finished and fell in love with the idea. Philippe is a man of extreme enthusiasm, excitement, and concentration. He's so energetic, always running around and constantly laughing and smiling. But when he gets on a rope, his face turns to stone and he is in a state of the deepest concentration you are likely to see.
It's impossible to not be astonished by what he did. Watching him from the ground, a speck of color, hovering in the sky would have been amazing. There is a moment in the movie where he admits that when he first saw them, he said it's impossible, but let's get to work. That's his attitude. He just wants to walk between the towers, no matter what the risk. Even if he dies, he will go out doing what he loves and that's beautiful. It doesn't hurt that he also had the support of many people. His friends wanted to see him out on that wire just as much as he did. That's pretty obvious when we listen to their interviews and watch them begin to tear up when talking about it. This wasn't just Philippe; he couldn't have done it by himself. In the end, it was for everyone involved.
I expected this to be great from the perfect reviews, which hardly ever happens. What I didn't expect was for the movie do be so beautiful. It's obvious going in that the story is going to be an engrossing one. But Marsh's skills take the story to a whole new level and this documentary to a whole new level. I love documentaries and watch them frequently, and this is a new favorite of mine.
The archival footage of Philippe was some of the most amazing video that I've ever seen, and it was by far my favorite part of this documentary. The rest of the movie was interesting enough, but it was hard to focus on his life history or the reenactments of his planning sessions with his friends, after seeing him walking on a thin wire suspended high over a bridge or Notre Dame. Man on Wire felt uneven because of how amazing the camera footage of his wire-walking was, but it was still a fascinating film.
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century."
A real treat, especially for documentary lovers, this film will undoubtedly resonate for all of us around the anniversary of September 11th 2001. It tells of tightrope-walker Philippe Petit (the French have a wonderful word, funambule) and his obsession with conquering the Twin Towers. And yes, I do mean what you think I mean. Having strung a wire between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris, and then between those of the Sydney Harbour bridge, and proceeded to walk, kneel, lie down, turn around and juggle on them, Petit and his accomplices planned the spectacular and all but impossible challenge of doing the same for WTC North and South towers. It is of course illegal to do this sort of thing, but they had got away with it before. Interweaving documentary footage, reconstruction and talking head reminiscences of the participants ? Petit himself is infectiously enthusiastic ? Marsh fashions a film which tantalisingly revisits the progress of events on the day and then leaves us dangling (sorry) to go back and explain or amplify earlier events and preparations. Despite the security challenges, the dangers of cross winds, wire oscillation and tension, not to mention the difficulty of getting an extremely heavy length of cable up a hundred flights and getting it two hundred feet to the opposite tower, the group pulled it off. It's a breathtaking viewing experience, conveying something of the awe the event inspired in bystanders back in 1974, and this despite the lack of moving images depicting the coup itself.
Starring: Philippe Petit, Annie Allix, Jean-Louis Blondeau.
<< "If I die...what a beautiful death! To die in the exercise of your passion" >>
Remember a time where any decent movie goer could say that they just experienced a movie going experience like no other, an experience that rages all of your emotions for the entire stay and stays with you as you leave the theater. I think it is still safe to say that that kind of thing in this day and age is heard in moderation, with the way modern cinema is...but Man On Wire gives you that feeling so immensely, it's a movie worthy of whats being said of it.
"That's when I saw him on a cable. I had never seen concentration like that...and I think I never have to this day. And his face became this...ageless mask of concentration, I mean he had become like a sphinx...it was amazing"
Part real footage, part reenactment combined with present day interviews, the film has a surprisingly perfect structure for a documentary, especially when a simple story such as this is stretched out to a 90 minute feature. The feature begins as a counter balance of the two wonders being built alongside Philippe's early years, with his pre-mature daredevil days where he manages to wire walk between the buildings of Notre Dame and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge...with both times being arrested. The wonderment of this man is built perfectly and we laugh at how eccentric he really is. All the interviews are conceived wonderfully, capturing each personality as they really are, especially the gripping charisma of Anne's wonderment of it all and of course, Philippe.
Amongst his gripping interviews, we see Philippe throughout the plan, the way he and his team craft what is pretty much a crime, being the fact that it is obviously illegal. We study his planning and see how much work he puts into it all, he is really molded into the 3D character that he is.
Amongst the real footage and the interviews comes the reenactments, nicely and deftly placed and shot so well amongst every word said and every moment shown. There are clearly solid production values to the scenes but the nuances are there that balance with everything else shown and the film remains engrossing on every level.
I don't think everything that anyone is feeling can be said in a review for this film. I was left feeling fulfilled with this movie-going experience I just sat through. Man On Wire is many levels of wonderment. Its skillfully cut together and perfectly balanced throughout. It cuts through every one of your emotions with the right intentions and just shows us this simple story and its epic quality perfectly...and never again in a while will you feel such an experience as this. Simply perfect in its own way.
<< "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." >>