Category: Film

Man on Wire

Philippe Petit walks between NYC's World Trade Center towers on August 7, 1974. (Photo: (c) 2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images)

Catching up on some recorded telly recently, I sat absolutely enthralled watching the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary, Man on Wire.

Man on Wire documents French juggler and tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s stunning (and highly illegal) wire walk between New York City’s World Trade Center towers in 1974.

I was familiar with the iconic images of Petit (see above) poised between the iconic towers (at the time still under construction) but had never given a moment’s thought to the story behind the audacious act. And what a story it is.

Director James Marsh’s film unfolds like a thriller, from the dreaming, plotting and scheming to the execution and fallout.

Petit and his motley crew of co-conspirators are depicted (through a series of re-enactments and footage shot at the time) with all the energy, optimism and brazenness of youth.

Many of Petit’s support team were interviewed for the documentary and, as they recount their roles in the amazing adventure, their eyes still light up in excitement and amazement some 30 years later.

As his dream gets closer and closer to becoming a reality, it becomes clear that Petit was either oblivious or plain unappreciative of the great efforts made and risks taken by his crew.

Like all genius, Petit’s is accompanied by tendencies towards obsession and impulsiveness. While his childlike wonder and enthusiasm inspires, it’s a childish selfishness that drives him.¬†All big dreams come at a price and Petit’s relationships with his closest friend, photographer Jean-Louis Blondeau, and girlfriend at the time, Annie Allix, were casualties.

Blondeau’s tears and obvious pain as he recounts his falling out with Petit is the most poignant example of the enormous effect the walk had on the lives of all involved, not just Petit.

If you haven’t seen Man on Wire, go see it.

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