Festival Nouveau Cinema 2008: Man On Wire

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Man On Wire (dir. James Marsh)

* * * 1/2

Through an artful blend of staged reenactments and archival footage, James Marsh has assembled a compelling look at Philippe Petit, a mischievous high-wire artist who performed a series of breathtaking wire walks, culminating in his walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Much of the film is focused on the mechanics of pulling off the stunt – an act compared to an elaborate bank heist, complete with a motley crew of like-minded conspirators. The film gets a lot of deserving traction out of the idea that it is necessary to circumvent society to create true moments of beauty. Petit’s work is indeed beautiful – only a hardened cynic could look upon his midair grace and not be moved – but Marsh doesn’t idealize his subject, refusing to gloss over a key moment of betrayal that is at once tragically in-character and completely callous. As it turns out, however, Petit’s art is far larger than his hubris, and we can only delight in witnessing his accomplishments.

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