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DRE #444020

Film Review

Man On a Wire

We can only think of the World Trade Center in terms of that terrible day 7 years ago, but James Marsh's documentary of another event in 1974 takes us back to what now seems like a lost world. A young French high wire walker, Philippe Petit, decided to try to walk on a wire rigged between the two towers. He conceived the idea before the towers were even built, and became obsessed with the "coup".  He assembled a small team of friends in France who brain stormed about ways to rig a cable, which had to be done surreptitiously as it was clearly illegal. And obviously very dangerous, as there were often strong winds and mist at that elevation. After making several trips to the US to case the buildings and observe workers and office people coming and going, he decided to add  to Americans to his team. Both were heavy pot smokers.  Petit had to somehow smuggle his team with hundreds of pounds of cable and gear up to the roofs without detection, and then find a way to rig the cable from one roof to another. a distance of about 200 feet, all at a 1300 foot elevation.  And do this at night to avoid being spotted.

There is much documentary footage including fascinating glimpses of the construction of the towers, and many views of Petit and his friends practicing in France. And talking head interviews with the participants, now 34 years older. Although Petit really commands the film, his friends, including his old girl friend, Annie, are fascinating as well.  Some cry as they remember that day. There is a great sense of tension throughout the film, and it is structured much like a heist movie. Will they evade detection and get their gear up to the roof? All accompanied by terrific music, some written for the film.  Marsh communicates their enthusiasm, naivete, courage, and a bit of insanity here, done extremely well in this fascinating and rapidly paced film. There is not a slack moment in the entire 90 minutes. Yet there is no mention of 9/11, and surprisingly the film maker doesn't ask Petit about his thoughts as he watched the towers collapse. Despite that, I loved this film and felt it was one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen.  It is a work of art about a work of art.  Absolutely worth seeing. Playing now at the Embarcadero.

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