Watch His Step!
Watching a great movie that clicks in all of the right places assures me that there is harmony in the universe. It is like marveling at a perfectly symmetrical design like the Eiffel Tower or a spider web. Life is really random chaos with no point. It is a relief that our human intellect stubbornly seeks and finds safety, reason and occasional serendipity in the face of an abyss. Without a sound mind, sanity is lost. To perform well, the struggle between genius and madness is universal. The endeavor of Philippe Petit is one of the most memorable…and balanced.
The documentary Man on Wire recounts a French tightrope walker’s obsession to tread while suspended between the void of the World Trade Center Towers 1,368 feet from the ground. That’s the height of 228 six-foot men. Having trained for most of his life to perform this feat, he masterminded a plot with an adventurous team of experts and thrill-seekers to infiltrate the towers’ rooftops to get the wire across them. The illegal operation was as dangerous and complex as a robbing a heavily guarded infrastructure like in Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1954) or, if you haven’t seen that one, Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven. My only complaint about the break-in was that they didn’t pack a video camera to film the spectacle from such an awesome perspective view.
The scenes of the controversial incursion are narrated by the present interviewees while documented footage and dramatically staged footage bring us intimately to experience it. The black-and-white footage (always timeless) is integrated so well that documentary and the fictional realization become seamless. The director James Marsh has made an exceptional thriller and a visual poem about great dreamers whose vision threaten to capsize them unless they rise to act upon their desires.
This is a superb follow-up to Marsh’s 2006 directorial debut titled The King, a chilling docudrama about an estranged son (Gael García Bernal) who goes to depraved lengths to integrate himself into the new family of his born-again father (William Hurt – “How does that feel?”). The King was between Julia Kwan’s Eve and the Firehorse and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition on my Best Films of 2006 list. This year, Marsh is almost neck-to-neck with magician/filmmaker Errol Morris who too has made another invaluable documentary called Standard Operating Procedure. CONTINUE READING ►