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Movie Review: ‘Man On Wire’

October 24, 2008

A documentary film?  Yes, but much more.  A heist movie?  Yes, a really good one, excitingly told, but much more.  Also a privileged look into the human soul of art in the face of death, Man On Wire does all three these things well in just 90 minutes.

It is the story of Phillipe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.  Journalists demanded to know ‘Why?’ but there simply is no ‘why’.  We meet a full cast of people who carried off the heist right under the noses of the authorities, stringing a steel cable between the towers so the artist – no other word applies – could throw open the perception of human boundaries farther than anyone could imagine.  That was his gift to the world. 

The movie does not mention 9/11 and that is entirely fitting.  The WTC was itself an extraordinary achievement and how wonderful to associate it with an artistic triumph instead of one of humanity’s darker moments.  That is a different story, one full of heroism that overshadows evil, which deserves its own telling.

Seriously, see this movie, in the theater if you can and on DVD again later.  I don’t need to worry about building up expectations too high – it is moving and funny and exciting and beautiful.  (It will be showing tomorrow night and Sunday, 25 and 26 October, at the Historic Normal Theater if you’re in town)

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