Celebrating Great Films

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Man on Wire

Unranked at time of writing.

A couple of months ago I went to the cinema, and I was treated to one of the most inspirational films I’ve ever seen. It’s a British film about the Twin Towers; it swept the board of awards for documentary films; yet I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t even heard of it. (Why doesn't IMDb include documentary films in its Top 250?)

The film follows the story of a charismatic and headstrong young circus artist. His name is Philippe Petit, a Frenchman with a particular fondness for tightrope walking. His signature act? Breaking into world landmarks, illegally rigging a highwire, and dancing his way across. In 1974, he turned his attention to Manhattan’s newly built World Trade Center.

Man on Wire

The story is told by Phillippe Petit himself, now 59 years old. We see his motivation, his meticulous planning, and his friendships that were sacrificed to achieve the “artistic crime of the century”. It has all the tension of a Hollywood heist story, enriched by breathtaking photography, and an yet it has an underlying poignancy. The film itself never mentions the sad fate of the Twin Towers, but it is somehow deeply moving to know that Phillippe Petit and his friends managed to break into the beloved towers not to destroy them, but to celebrate them.

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