See How One Man Snagged The Best View Of New York City.
A double homage to one of the greatest stunts in the world and to one of the greatest manmade structures in the world. The main focus of “Man on Wire” is the account of Philippe Petit’s grand scheme to infiltrate the World Trade Center in 1974. Monsieur Petit and his band of adventurers recount their memories of how the plan was formed in this 2008 documentary.
But the other side of the buzz is the World Trade Center. I imagine it was not fully intended for “Man on Wire” to be a tribute to the Twin Towers but one can’t help looking at all the footage of the skyscrapers without feeling some kind of sentimentality.
While seeing Mr. Petit accomplish his goal is uplifting I think most would agree with experiencing an underlying dread or foreboding. We know the fate of the Towers and its’ hard not to look at the 1974 pictures without recalling the horrific images from 2001. Still, the classic scenes of the WTC in its infancy back in the early 70’s are fascinating. I got a real kick watching all the throngs of workers pouring out of the subway station and right into the buildings.
Even more astonishing were the shots of Petit and his team. I was amazed at the incredible photos of Petit at home goofing around with friends, earlier crossings at a cathedral and The Sydney Harbour Bridge, shots of Petit and his friends scoping out the Towers and the WTC event itself. It seemed like Petit made sure to document everything he did just in case someone had an urge to, I dunno, make a movie about his escapades.
The story is not only told through pictures but also through members of Petit’s team and Petit himself. The dialogue switches from English to French depending on who’s speaking so the “subtitle intolerant” out there should be prepared to do a little light reading.
Petit is quite animated about his harrowing stunts. Age has not reduced his thirst for carpe diem. I also enjoyed the recollections of Petit’s girlfriend during that time, Annie Allix. The two must have really had a spectacular bond. Miss Allix’s eyes were wide with wonder when she spoke about him. Petit’s former best friend, Jean Louis Blondeau, also shared some insightful commentary on what it was like to run around with a man that liked to climb everything. Moments that were not caught on film such as the late night set-up on the Tower roof and Petit’s roll in the hay with a New York-ette are fleshed out by actors in dramatized scenes.
I have to admit that the synopsis for “Man on Wire” didn’t make me very excited to see it. If it wasn’t for my generous friend that bought my ticket I probably would’ve passed. I was so sure that I could find something more interesting than some flick about some dude who walked on a wire between the Two Towers back in 1974. By the end of the movie my friend and I couldn’t stop gabbing about it. We were awed by all the collected photos and film footage. We were a little sad that Petit lost some of his closest friends after the event. And we were both extremely suspicious about how Petit was able to pay for all that equipment and those travel expenses.
Though the gabbing from the persons involved got a little dry and dull at times, the majority of the piece is surprisingly fascinating with the Twin Tower footage providing some poignant moments. If you’re looking for something genuinely different or are a documentary freak then you should try walking on the high side with “Man on Wire”.