Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Man on Wire (2008)

"If I die, what a beautiful death!"
- Philippe Petit

At a glance: James Marsh directs this compelling documentary about Philippe Petit, who, in 1974, walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center; Petit is mesmerizing, and the ups and down of his sometimes motley crew adds to the suspense

If you heard that a man desired to walk a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, you might think he is a psychotic with a death wish. Philippe Petit might be psychotic, but he developed his skill so completely that he was the only man capable of safely walking between the towers. And that’s just what he did in 1974, for an amazing 45 minutes and 8 crossings. This documentary about Petit is not only the study of a dedicated performer with a burning passion for his art, it also serves as a nice homage to the now-deceased World Trade Center. Copious footage of a young Petit and his crew are melded to good effect with current interviews. It perhaps bogs down just a little during the relatively long sequence dealing with setting up the required  equipment. Rating: 2.75 of 4

"James Marsh's documentary is the story of the dreaming and scheming that went into the walk, which I hesitate to call a stunt. It seems too glib a word for a feat that inspired the poignant complex of emotions uncovered by Marsh's narrative."
- Sandra Hall (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Marsh uses a combination of interviews, film of Petit as a young man, authentic newsreels and enacted reconstructions to produce an unforgettable experience."
- Evan Williams (The Australian)

"The simplicity of Philippe's vision is intoxicating, as is his self-assurance."
- FILMINK (Australia)

"It's a hell of a story, and Petit is a mesmerising storyteller, with an extravagantly poetic turn of phrase and the glittering eye of the Ancient Mariner."
- Jake Wilson (The Age [Australia])

"It's a story worth telling, yes -- but after 90 minutes, it's hard not to wonder if the storyteller can talk about anything else."
- Noel Murray (Onion AV Club)

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