This is the first on a new series of movies nominated for Oscars from earlier in the year. As these films are released on to DVD I will review them here. Films I have seen in the cinema that have already been reviewed are : Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler.
Man On Wire won Best Documentary for its account of Philippe Petit’s breathtaking and daring high wire act between New York's twin towers in 1974.
He crossed between the towers 8 times over 45 minutes. The policemen waiting to arrest him did not describe him as a tightrope walker, but as a dancer. Petit performs as he crosses : he lies prostrate in the middle of the wire, he salutes the crowd. The policeman goes further : “we were watching something once in a lifetime”.
Photographs and film footage taken that day, both from the ground and from the top of the tower, next to the wire, show Petit’s face as “an ageless mask of concentration : a sphinx.” “I need complete detachment,” says Petit. “A castaway on the desert island of my dreams”
It evokes a mood that is “magical, profound.” His girlfriend, watching from the ground calls people’s attention to the highwire walker. “It was extraordinary. It was so beautiful.”
His lifetime friend who helped rig the wire from the other tower is watching Petit step out onto the rope. They are exhausted, it having taken all night to evade the guards, haul the wire across and secure the tightrope. Petit’s face is tense as he steps on the rope. As he crosses about one-third of the way, he sees “relief ... he’s secure, he’s good.” His friend cries at the memory as his fears throughout the planning and of what might go wrong, go unfounded as Petit succeeds in this one audacious act.
Petit recalls that “in the middle of this madness, I had hope and joy.”
And this is the effect this documentary has on the viewer. Petit has such impish enthusiasm that it infects you from through the screen. He lives “everyday as a true challenge - living his life on the tightrope.” His artistic flair draws you in to re-live his tale, some 35 years after it occurred. “If I die what a beautiful death. To die in the exercise of your passion.”
At the end, the American press cannot believe what they have witnessed. “Why?” they ask over and over again. Petit simply answers, “I have done something beautiful and mysterious. There is no ‘why’"
5 out of 5.
Green Guide Blogs will go into hiatus for a couple of weeks as I am away over the school holidays.