Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Man on Wire (redux)

No timely connection for this (except it's just out on DVD in Japan and I watched it last night after seeing it in the cinema last year) - but none needed. When it comes to Man on Wire, it's worth a mention any time. Some works of art, some creations, manage to be about some core essential of what it means to be alive and Man on Wire (the film) manages that, in part because of it's structure and in a large part because of its subject, summed up as "man on wire" (on the arrest sheet) but so much more than that.

Phillipe Petit walked across a tightrope cable strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre soon after they were built. The film documents his dream, from, apparently, at age 17, seeing the planned towers in a French newspaper article while in a dim waiting room for a dentist, via the planning of the event with friends and associates - which required much effort from all in secretly casing and entering the towers as well as surreptitiously physically erecting the cable - to his final act of 45 minutes on the rope and eight crossings. But a mere summary doesn't capture Petit's evervesence and energy, the sheer gall and edginess of the whole endeavour, the small human fears and hurts of friends, and the great passion of desire for this dream.

Nor does it capture the effect of the film in not speaking of, not alluding to, events 27 years after the tightrope walk in September 2001. But that's there, in our own knowledge and imagery, in the celebration of the building's construction, in the enaction of a crime to achieve a soaring and joyous result, in the devastating shot of an airplane silhouetted above Petit on the rope, in the personal tears of one of Philippe's collaborators, Jean Louis Blondeau, which seem like they could also be tears at what is unacheivable now. As a war continues against the effects and enactors of 2001's violence, much is achieved here by "ignoring" the criminal slaughter in favour of a focus on a human achievement, in a celebration of not only one life (Petit's) but of life itself.

It's a celebration of a life that may have made-up elements of imagination (according to Jean Louis Blondeau and despite being a "documentary"), but never mind - here embellishments (if they are) are somehow still part of the piece. Jean Louis is also, apparently, planning a book about it all to include more facts. Meanwhile both his pictures, and those of another colleague in the caper, Jim Moore - which make up a large part of the startling imagery of the film - can be seen here (Blondeau) and here (Moore)

One of Jean Louis Blondeau's pictures

No comments: