Man on Wire James Marsh

Man on Wire James Marsh
On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit walked across a wire rigged illegally between the World Trade Center's twin towers. While it might be deceptively simple, this premise takes centre stage in James Marsh's documentary about a young Frenchman's obsession to perform a tightrope act 1,350 feet above the ground. The documentary makes its way through some of Petit's first tightrope performances between the spires of Notre Dame in Paris and Sydney's Harbour Bridge, and eventually builds toward the central stunt of the film. Interviews conducted with Petit and his friends lend insight to the difficulties they faced in completing their mission and offer a comic spin to this highly cinematic documentary. Pairing tremendous elegance with the reckless oddity of a Guy Maddin picture, Man on Wire never fails to impress. Despite all the tension built into the main sequence of the film, it takes a surprisingly contemplative approach to such a high intensity subject. It is an example of masterful editing and a seamless storyline, which manages to pass from interviews to reconstructive footage and contemporary shots in a matter of moments. The DVD special features have a lot to offer and help to break into the fascinating world of Petit, whose character remains somewhat elusive throughout the documentary. In a supplementary interview, Petit reveals the motivation behind his performances and describes his work as that of a poet, writing his words in the sky. A mini-documentary on Petit's performance on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is made up of footage from the '70s and showcases Petit's quirky street performances in cities across the world. To top it all off, the substance of the full-length documentary is summarized in a short animated film narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal. Man on Wire is an extremely satisfying take on what it claims is the "artistic crime of the century." (Mongrel Media)