Friday, March 11, 2011

Walking on thin air

Man On Wire
Director: James Marsh

Oscar nominations:
Best Documentary (2008) - won

I begin this review by posing you this question: Who do you think is crazier - Phillipe Petit or Timothy "Grizzly Man" Treadwell? Walking across a wire between the World Trade Center sounds (and is!) a lot more insane than observing bears in the wild, but then again, Petit is still alive while Treadwell was eaten by a bear. You could say that Petit is luckier, but he also had more respect for his passion and took the necessary precautions, although walking between the Twin Towers doesn't sound very safe no matter how many precautions you take!

If you've never heard of Phillipe Petit he is a French wire-walker who has walked between the towers of Notrre Dame and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. His most famous act of wire-walking was when he walked between the World Trade Center buildings eight times in August 1974. That's got to take a lot of guts because those buildings were ridiculously tall - 110 stories.

This film documents how he and his crew of team members snuck the equipment into the towers and set everything up. It took a lot of planning - they had models and drawings of the buildings to help them decide the best course of plan. Petit had his own wire he practiced on that was the same length that was the distance between the buildings (of course on his practice wire he was nowhere near the height of the towers!)

Not only does Petit cross the wire eight times, but he also lies down right in the middle at one point! With good reason, his crew was really nervous about this little expedition, but once Petit reached the middle, they said a big smile broke across his face and they knew that he felt "comfortable" and was able to finish his act with ease. There is not actual video footage of the walking between the buildings, only photos. The photos taken from the ground, you can barely even see him - he just looks like a speck in the sky. In fact, his girlfriend was on the ground and at one point they could see something falling and at first they thought it was him, but it turned out to be an article of clothing.

There is no mention of the Towers being no more which I thought was a little weird that they didn't ask how he felt when he found out that they were destroyed. He had such a personal relationship with these buildings, after all no one else in the world has done what he has done - and even if the Towers were still standing, I doubt anyone would even attempt to do that - that I was surprised he didn't talk about how it feels to him that they no longer exist.

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