Culture » Arts

Recommended for Consumption: “Man on Wire” at the Bijou

By Bill Colrus, Mike Kelley | Sept. 19, 2008, 10:09 a.m. Comment

Director James Marsh calls “Man on Wire” (opening today at the Bijou) more of a “heist film than a documentary.” Whatever it is, it’s one of the better films to roll through the Scenic City in quite some time.

“Man on Wire” Directed by James Marsh PG-13 (for some sexuality and nudity and drug references), 102 minutes ( Phillippe Petit, subject of James Marsh’s “Man on Wire” and arguably the greatest high-wire walker ever, doesn’t believe in God. Instead, he believes in the “God of the wire, the winds, the tower.” Perhaps actually worshipping these things is the only way he is able to do what other people would view as impossible, frightening, or more likely, crazy. Through a seamless melding of archival footage and strategically shot re-enactments, Marsh expertly recounts Petit’s walking between the towers of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, Australia’s Sydney Harbor Bridge, and, ultimately, his legendary 1974 “dance” between the towers of the World Trade Center. Through a flurry of compelling and conjoining interviews, Petit and his “accomplices” narrate the plotting, planning, sneaking, and smuggling required to pull off the “artistic crime of the century.” Petit used a 450-pound cable and a 26-foot-long balancing pole to walk, dance, juggle, kneel, and even lay down between the Twin Towers — 1,350 feet above the ground. He spent 45 minutes on the wire, only leaving because, as he says in the film, there was no reason to be on the wire any longer. The stunt spellbound the entire world, even the cops who arrested him. “Man on Wire” doesn’t talk about much about Petit’s life after that amazing day. It also doesn’t discuss the towers’ ultimate fate. But that’s not such a bad thing. It’s nice to have something else to remember them by. “Man on Wire” won both the Grand Jury Prize: World Cinema Documentary and the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival — only the sixth film to ever do so, and the first from outside the United States. It runs as part of the AEC’s Independent Film Series at the Bijou from Friday, 9/19, through Thursday, 9/25. View the trailer here.