Movie Reviews
10:47 am
Sat September 6, 2008

Man on Wire

Not even the great Knievel . . .

"Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it." Oprah Winfrey

Re-creations notwithstanding, Man on Wire is an authentic documentary about the romantic spirit of adventure still found in the human heart, at least the heart of slightly-eccentric Phillipe Petit, who walked a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.

Although so many daring stunts have occurred before and after, Evel Knievel's bone-crushing flying motorcycles come to mind, Petit's romantic descriptions of the plans and execution are even more interesting.

With the delicious details of evading the authorities while carrying at least a ton of equipment to anonymous sex with a fan immediately after custody, not even the great Knievel can match Petit's English in an accent well suited to any B movie thriller. Add to that enjoyment the apt choices of music with Michael Nyman's La Traverse de Paris and Erik Satie's uber-minimalist Gymnopedies.

The doc's structure is a traditional story within a story: The actual day of the twin Towers walk is framed by his background stories and biography, including his remarkable stunts between the Notre Dame steeples and the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. My colleague Frank Gabrenya of the Columbus Dispatch rightly criticizes the film's lack of follow up with Petit's life?such an interesting character makes you want to know everything up to today.

But then, maybe his holding back details of his contemporary life is just another high-wire act keeping you wanting more.