Sunday, June 20, 2010

Man on Wire

So you know how I was just saying that the mark of a good documentarian is his or her ability to edit? To take hours of footage and turn it into something engaging? Well, where the last flick failed, this one succeeds. Man on Wire tells about the planning for and execution of Phillipe Patek’s time walking a wire between the twin towers in the 1970’s. Patek was a French high wire walker who had grown sick of the circus life and decided to take a decidedly more ethereal and spiritual approach to his craft. He left the circus and began performing for the public in impromptu public appearances. He’d take a team of three or so, who would rig and film while he did his beautiful, fearless thing. They’d string rope between lightpoles on busy Parisian streets. They’d rig a wire across a lake in a park. He then decided to kick it up a notch and walked a wire between the two bell towers of the Notre Dame. This caused quite a stir and became the stuff of legend in France. Moved by the public response and the experience it gave him, he decided to up the ante again. This time he walked between two of the arches of the Sydney harbor bridge. Not only was this much more dangerous, it also caused an even bigger public response. He wanted more.

While at the dentist’s office he saw a magazine article about an architects proposal for the 7 buildings of the New York World Trade Center, two of which are the twin towers. He was immediately determined and crushingly obsessed. He dedicated his life to this feat, he called Le Coup. Then he learned the towers were accepted and going to be built. He now had a mission. Man on Wire gives the viewer an in-depth inside look at the years that followed. The years of planning, constant imagining and re-imagining, the several failed attempts to get to the top of the towers and the ultimate successful high wire walk between them. It’s an almost unthinkable accomplishment. He was on a tiny wire nearly half a mile above the earth, with no safety harness and certainly no net. To make it even more amazing, this wasn’t some highly orchestrated stunt organized by highly trained professionals.

No, this was some street performer from France with little more than a dream and a group of half stoned volunteers that he’d found just a few days before. And there he was, out on that wire, calm as a deep sea, loving every second of the 45 minutes he decided to stay out there on the wire. That’s right, he refused to come off and was up there for nearly an hour. He loved it and vowed to never do such a thing again, believing he’d never top it. This movie is great and gives you a wonderful look inside a once-in-a-lifetime event in New York history. It’s always a good thing when people spend their life pursuing what they believe is pure and beautiful and by the end of this movie, you’re gonna feel the same way.


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