Friday, August 22, 2008

"Man on Wire" comes to Portland

For those of you who live in Portland, don't miss "Man on Wire," which is playing at the Fox Tower. I first saw it at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April, and just saw it again. It affected me even more profoundly the second time. Here's an update of my review:

“Man On Wire” tells the astounding story of Phillippe Petit’s walk (his dance, really) across a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. I knew a bit about this incident and thought it would be interesting to learn more about it, but was completely unprepared for how profoundly it would affect me. It turns out that Petit originally wanted to make a film about the feat way back while it was happening, so a lot of footage exists from that time period of his extensive preparations back in France and in New York City, as well as footage of his earlier feats scaling Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The older footage, which captures the youthful exuberance of Petit and his friends as they experiment and argue about with how to execute “le coup,” as they termed it, contrasts poignantly with the footage of them 30 years later remembering the experience in joyous and occasionally reverent detail.

The cast of characters is fascinating. Petit, especially, is an extraordinarily complex person—all exuberance and guts, delighting in the prospect of doing something illegal and impossible. He dreamed of walking between the towers while they were still being built and, through the force of his charisma and narcissism, compelled an eclectic collection of strangers and friends to go to great personal risk and effort to assist him. His achievement is a gift of pure joy and beauty, astounding to behold. And the event profoundly affected those who assisted him, particularly his girlfriend and a childhood friend who are quite compelling characters in their own right. The impact of their success on all of them and on their relationships is unexpectedly profound. This carefully crafted film is funny and absorbing, and also inexpressibly moving.

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