Man on Wire

This is about French high wire walker, Philippe Petit, who strung a wire and walked between the WTC towers in the 70s. I had heard about this feat but wasn’t familiar with the details. I was amazed he was able to pull it off, considering the limitations of his crew: His American helpers were ne’er-do-wells and fuck ups, who had no idea about high wire acts. His French friends were capable, but none of them stood to gain much (and could possibly have lost their good friend, which was probably their motivation). This movie is billed as a documentary shot like a heist picture, but watching him pull off this unlikely coup, felt more like watching the fate story from Slumdog Millionaire unfold.

Now that I’ve set with it for a night, what really moved me was how Petit captured his friends and wound them so tightly into his passion. This makes the ending completely unexpected and even a little uncomfortable. I am left wondering if his one good friend was perhaps more than just a friend. There were an inordinate number of shots of bushy haired young men, frolicking in the countryside.

Interestingly they never mention the attack and destruction of the WTC, but I don’t think you can watch this and not think along those lines. The 70s stock footage of the buildings going up is eerily similar to the footage of the site after the fall. The whole idea of a plot to sneak into the WTC makes complete sense for the drama but is also mildly disturbing. At one point, they do a Ken Burns panning shot of Petit on his wire with a jetliner looming overhead in the background. I doubt any of this was meant as an intentional homage, but perhaps seeing this movie post tragedy is one reason it has captured my imagination.

Plus it’s just a bad ass stunt.

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2 thoughts on “Man on Wire

  1. Hi there, Tim,

    Walking on a tightrope between two fixed points is fine, but at the end of the exercise you are no higher. A good deal of energy to stay in the same plane.

    This is why I’m more impressed by these daft eejits who climb up the sides of these gigantic buildings. Spidermen.

    Speaking of: Saw a cute comedy skit, an elderly Peter Parker giving an interview saying how he was once bitten by a spider, then could shoot webs, climb buildings, swing across cities, capture criminals … but … now … he needs help getting out of a bathtub.


  2. Tim Elhajj says:

    Hey Ross!

    I’ve seen high wire acts, but never a true life spiderman. I did grow up with a boy who could break into a house by way of an open second story window, which I guess qualifies him as a second story man, if not a spiderman.

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