Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Best British Films: 22. Man on Wire

I profiled this movie back in May, but I decided to give it another watch as I go through The Observer's list (see sidebar). Man on Wire, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature last year, is by far my favorite documentary feature and is a magical experience. Watching a man live his dream. What could possibly be more moving?

Early in the film we see a sad, nostalgic piece of footage: the towers of the World Trade Center being built. Few things inspire such an emotional response (for us Americans, at least) than the Twin Towers. It's still a shock to see the New York City skyline without them.

As the film tells us, Frenchman Philippe Petit saw a conceptual drawing of the Twin Towers in a dentist office and knew he had to conquer them. It was as if the towers - at that point the highest in the world - were being built just for him, and he made it his mission to walk between them someday.

On August 7, 1974, Petit astonished the world when he strung a tightrope between the Twin Towers and walked across - no less than eight times.

The documentary by James Marsh makes brilliant use of Petit's home movies, his photographs, news footage, new interviews and reenactment to show us how one man defied convention to achieve the highest of ambitions. ****/4

"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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