Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

France 2007
Directed by
James Marsh
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Man On Wire

Synopsis: In 1974, French high wire walker Phillipe Petit strung a cable between the Twin Towers in New York. For three quarters of an hour he walked and cavorted across that cable, 450 metres above the ground. This fascinating doco looks at how this amazing feat came to happen.

Man On Wire has won the Audience Award & Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and it’s no wonder. It is an outstanding example of how a documentary can capture audience attention. Director James Marsh handles his material in such a deft way that the audience experiences the build-up to the walk almost as a thriller or a heist movie, with the underhand preparation required and the deception needed to even get to the top of the towers keeping us in suspense throughout. Even from the word go we are enthralled and intrigued, as the interviewees reminisce and our curiosity is piqued; our attention captured.

Marsh uses a variety of techniques to embellish the train of events told by Petit himself, along with his girlfriend Annie and close friend and accomplice, Jean-Louis Blondeau. Petit is a fabulously entertaining story teller, his narrative rich with animated anecdotes and dramatic moments. At times re-creations of the past are staged, such as the time when the young Petit was in the dentist’s waiting room where he read an article in a magazine about the forthcoming construction of the Twin Towers, an article that fired his imagination and guided his purpose for the next six years. Marsh. luckily. also got his hands on plenty of actual footage of Petit’s exploits long before he made the world-famous walk, when he was a wire walker, juggler, and Paris street-performer (amongst many other things). There are many old clips of him practising his wire-walking and impressing his then girlfriend, Annie. We are also treated to archival footage of a fabulous clandestine walk Petit did in 1973 across our own Sydney Harbour Bridge and another earlier one at the top of Nôtre Dame Cathedral.

Petit’s walk became known as “the artistic crime of the century”. Behind the so-called crime is a picture of a man, who, by his own admission, likes to live life itself always on the edge. He describes the 45 minutes and 8 crossings on the wire between the towers as “something magnificent and mysterious” and when asked why he did it, says there is no why.

Beyond all the excitement there is also a surprising depth of emotion presented here, as sensed in the interviews with Annie and Blondeau, who reflect not only upon Petit’s feat, but also how it affected their friendship, along with issues of love, trust and betrayal. The visuals are complemented by a haunting score from Michael Nyman and I’d strongly suggest that if you see no other doco this year, you go out, even on a wire, to catch this one.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst