A review of ďMan on WireĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: PG-13 for brief nudity and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. In English and French with English subtitles

 

With breathtaking harmony James Marsh balances tempo, humor and passion in the re-telling of high-wire artist Philippe Petitís stunning walk across New Yorkís Cityís Twin Towers.

From a tender age Petit had a dream, the as-yet-unfinished World Trade Center Towers galloping in his brain as the object of an unquenchable quest.

Tight-roping across the gothic cathedral of Notre Dame wasnít enough. Nor was Australiaís Sydney Harbor Bridge. In the early 70s the cat-like Petit and a ragtag bunch of friends set about a plan that would rock their world to the core; testing cables, wires, and provocative schemes to string a tightrope between a pair of impossibly monumental skyscrapers.

The group dummied up fake invoices and ID cards, and with Lady Luck on their side got themselves and their accoutrement to the top of the North and South Towers in August of 1974. There Petitís destiny is sealed.

With the help of captivating interviews (Petit a stealthy pitchman), fresh re-creation plus astonishing archival footage and photos Petitís journey becomes an emotional roller coaster, fraught with danger yet crackling with vitality.

The physical feat itself is remarkable, almost 1,400 feet in the air and look Ma, no net! The view from the top is a heart attack, death a single misstep away. Tension flows from plan to execution to the inevitably poignant fallout.

The beauty of this dazzling documentary isnít limited to the exhilarating derring-do. Itís in the harmony and lithe attitude of a cheerful (and dare I say egocentric?) Frenchman so consumed by his own fate (ďA castaway on the desert island of my dreamsĒ) that it exacts a huge toll on those who love and support him.

Marsh doesnít acknowledge the ultimate fate of the Towers and itís hugely refreshing to embrace the memories of their impact without negative connotation.

Outrageously entertaining and perfectly profound.