Man on Wire James Marsh

Man on Wire James Marsh
One wishes for a little more context in this documentary but there’s no denying the excitement of one very determined Frenchman doing something so dangerous.

That man is Philippe Petit and in 1974 he had his crowning achievement via a tightrope walk across the now-vanished Twin Towers. The film takes his story as sort of an adventure: excited participants remark on the insanity of it all and the countdown to the big event is presented in thriller-ish reenactments. Were it any other happening, this might not be so exciting but Petit’s enigmatic flamboyance is fun to watch and the nuttiness of some of the snags, such as the night watchman who showed up unannounced (only to ignore the illegal goings-on), you can’t actually write.

Director James Marsh just barely avoids A&E theatrics, being at once bound by the narrative of the attempt and success but creative enough to keep it from getting monotonous or dribbling into cheesy hyperbole. Petit is a sufficiently fascinating figure to want to explore deeper, especially regarding his need for death-defying attention and his relationship with shrinking violet girlfriend Annie Allix — many critics have attacked Marsh’s refusal to penetrate the Petit psychology and account for his behavior.

Still, one can’t imagine a mythmaker like Petit letting Marsh get very close, and the smiling daredevil committing "the artistic crime of the century” is plenty endearing and subject enough for a great night out at the movies.

If you leave wanting more, you sure don’t want less. And his supporting cast of misfit associates offers ballast enough to make this one to watch. (Mongrel Media)