Man on Wire Reviews
Watched on Netflix at home, December 29, 2016.
NOTE: This was the last movie I watched in 2016, for a total of 100 for the year (goal met!). 3 year total, 287.
Petit is a funny and charismatic man, which is especially important given how dependent this film is on him telling his own story. The format is simple- take those involved and interview them about the events, all the while showing re-enactments of the stories and actual video footage when relevant. This is playing it safe but only, and ONLY, if the story has enough going for it. That's the difference between a decent film and a great one when you follow a structure like that.
Unsurprisingly, sneaking into the twin towers and walking across them on a tightrope- that's, um, a pretty brilliant story. All of Petit's passion and drive comes through and fits so perfectly with his stunt that the film just has a wholeness to it- it informs and inspires. It makes you think but it doesn't leave you questioning. You just get it- you feel what Petit is experiencing, even if you haven't experienced it yourself. Sure, watching this isn't actually going to feel like you're only one step away from guaranteed death (thankfully!?) but it's still good, okay!?
Everything this film represents is a perfect tribute to the towers that once stood. That's not what this one is about though- it's about re-living a moment with those who were there and, boy, what a moment it was.
Suspenseful, energetic, dramatic: all words to describe not only this film, but the main man himself. Petit is a true character-he keeps us engaged with his mysterious yet magnificent obsession with being hundreds of feet in the air, dancing across a single wire suspended between the notorious Twin Towers. It also doesn't hurt that he's so bubbly and spirited, keeping the film quick-paced for the most part. And who better to direct such a film than James Marsh? Though Marsh's actual voice is never heard throughout Man on Wire, this does not stop him from getting it across. He places an immense focus on celebrating Petit's walk across the Twin Towers, in the most light-hearted and whimsical way possible (both of these attending to his voice, I might add). Marsh tells Petit's story beautifully, utilizing a combination of talking-head interviews, archived footage/photographs, and reenactments to take us (the viewers) through this exhilarating journey. We really get a sense of the type of filmmaker that Marsh is through Man on Wire. The way he takes extra steps just to make the film more "artsy" for viewers who may or may not pick up on such minute details, magnificent! In the very beginning moments of the film, we see archived photos of Petit as a child juxtaposed with archived film of the Towers being built. Marsh sequences the photos in such a way to draw parallels between them and what's going on in the film. Killer scene!-absolutely stunning.
Yes, admittedly there is a lack of moving archived material in the film, but who is to blame for this? Certainly not Marsh, and probably not Petit or his crew either. It seems that Petit's intention was not to record the moment, but to rather live it. Though his crossing did make a beautiful performance (which we see through the stunning archived photos of his seemingly ant-sized body suspended on a wire), his decision to do the walk in the first place can be attributed to his sheer obsession with the project and Towers, not any desire to "put on a show."
What's interesting to me is evidence of the binary we see toward the end of the film. We know that, through his careful composition of materials, Marsh intended for his film to be cheerful, airy, and humorous (among other things of the like). This calls into question the last few minutes of the film, which bring a more elegiac feel, an ambiance that catches us a little off guard considering the otherwise up-beat moments throughout. It's worth noting that Marsh never explicitly mentions the horrific events that took place on September 11th, 2001 (interesting, especially since Man on Wire was released 7 years later). This was no accident, of course. Marsh definitely did not intend to put a damper on the occasion. His main focus was celebrating the walk, but he does create a sort of elegy for the towers with his exquisite layering and sequencing of archived film, interviews, photos, and music (during the film's final moments, in particular). As Annie (Petit's ex-lover) speaks of the ending of her romantic relationship with Petit, she says "our relationship was meant to end here, and it was beautiful that way." Instead of the camera remaining fixed on Annie's face, it pans around the Towers while a soft, touching lullaby twinkles in the background. Marsh is trying to point out that like their relationship, the Towers have also ended. The soft music brings a touching (almost mourning) feel to the moment, which further implements the minimal elegiac aspects of the film. Another killer scene! If we're giving credit where it's due, all praise goes to James Marsh. He took this amazingly creative event and strung it together in a way that made it all the more exciting. Hats off, Marsh!