Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Man on Wire

Just watched it. A fine film indeed. On Matt Cale's top ten of 2008.

Philippe Petit is one of the more fascinating people you’re ever going to meet, even if he’d likely drive you crazy inside of an hour. Still, it’s a testament to the documentary form that we can spend an entire film with his sheer reckless abandon and not be pushed over the edge. As a typically self-involved artist, Petit thinks only of his next challenge, which, in August of 1974, involved scaling a tightrope fastened between the two towers of the World Trade Center. The audacity is obvious, and the cheek almost beyond compare, but Petit’s charm makes us believe he can accomplish anything. And so he does. The story of how and when he lugged up the equipment, cased the joint, and eventually put one foot in front of the other makes for high drama, and at no point does anyone discuss the current absence of said towers. And though unspoken, we realize that the feat will remain forever unmatched, and likely the crowning achievement of athletic derring-do. One can’t really describe an unnecessary artistic statement as “brave,” but when we see him out there, a solitary figure atop a great, bottomless chasm, we find few other words that could describe something so wonderfully insane. And finally, a documentary not about the trials of war, or abuse, or death, or even the bloody Holocaust, but simply the unadulterated pleasures of risk. For its own sake, at long last.

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