Review: Man On Wire (documentary)

Reel Reminiscent #1: A review of Man on Wire
James Marsh (Director)
Starring: Philippe Petit, Paul McGill, Jim Moore, David Roland and more

On August 7 in 1974, a Frenchman and his accomplices planned and executed what has since become known as the artistic crime of the 20th century. Over the course of eight months, Philippe Petit joined the twin towers with a series of cables and then proceeded to walk between them multiple times, to the thrill and spectacle of onlookers 412 meters below.

Such is the riveting tale of Man on Wire (2007), which details the almost mythical man that is Philippe Petit, a street performer and tight ropewalker from Paris who defied authorities on multiple occasions to pursue his victimless – yet illegal – dreams.

Man on Wire. Literally.

The film briefly details Petit’s early years as a street performer in Paris, and of his discovery of the yet –to-be-built Twin Towers which immediately became the object of his dreams in his youth. His obsession with tightrope walking in obscenely dangerous places (the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sydney Harbour Bridge being notable side notes in the film) would otherwise be considered insane were it not for the passionate and eloquent manner with which he expresses his love for art of performance.

With its frequent views of the now perished Twin Towers, and the almost fanatical manner with which Petit commits himself to his cause, the film could easily have ventured in to a hokey take on world politics and on a senseless, serial pest. But it avoids this peril in part by exploring Petit’s relationships with the faithful group of co-conspirators who devoted their lives (and in some instances, their right to return to the US) to the pursuit of Petit’s dream.

petite accosted
“Why not?”

All in all a wonderful viewing experience that both inspires and puts to rest the question of “why?” Why did a man willingly risk his life, his friend’s and his own freedom to pursue a seemingly pointless cause? In answering this question, Petit sums up both his philosophical candor and his zest for life with an anything but dubious “Why not?

Nice touch: Aerial footage of Petit’s feat paired with Bach’s timeless Air in G String creates a sense of dreamy hope for one’s own pursuits of- and realizations for- life purpose and happiness.

Reel Reminiscent is a “blog within a blog” that reviews movies from the near and distant past.


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