Monday, November 22, 2010

Brief Thoughts on Man on Wire

Yes, I only just watched it. There's not too much I can say about one of the best-reviewed movies in Rotten Tomatoes' history that hasn't been said already, so I shan't dwell on it too long.

Early in the film there is footage of the World Trade Center's construction. I shuddered at first to see again the huge steel framing that so littered Ground Zero, but the feeling soon subsided. For what's being done, like in any well-told story, is a conjuring act. The twin towers are reconstructed before our eyes as the setting for Philippe Petit's great wire-walking scheme.

Petit is a lively fellow, both a natural storyteller--he gleefully pantomimes the more exciting and tense moments of his tale--and kind of a mad genius. His former lover, Annie Allix, and his cohorts are all in transports of astonishment when they think back on having actually helped him string a wire across the twin towers for him to cross. And why not? The details into how they did it, including posing as French journalists in order to photograph the rooftops, are so elaborate as to invite comparisons to Ocean's 11 (not that this stops them from making it; Allix explicitly invokes "a bank robbery" to describe the bad-boy appeal the job held for Petit).

It took me a few minutes after I had finished watching to realize director James Marsh's very conscious decision to not once include the words '9/11,' 'terrorist,' or 'Osama bin Laden.' Good on him for that. That day was an obscenity, and its inclusion would have stained the story's freewheeling cheer. That the suicide bombers should be made irrelevant is in itself a minor victory.

1 comment:

  1. I only just watched the film this past year, and while I gaped at Petit, it was his [former] best friend who really moved me.