Man on Wire
Film review by: Witney Seibold
When French daredevil and wirewalker Philippe Petit heard of New York City’s plans to build the World Trade towers back in the late 1960s, he instantly started thinking about walking a high wire between them. When the towers were finally completed in 1974, he did it.
That’s not an easy task to pull off. First of all, Petit and his many associates needed to sneak hundreds of pounds of equipment up to the very top of the towers (they disguised themselves at construction workers), and then they had to shoot an arrow from one tower to the next to get the wire started. They had to anchor the wire with other cross wires, and then they had to be prepared for arrest when it would inevitably happen. The police code was “man on wire.”
Since high school, I have admired people who are able to commit elaborate pranks. I was aware of the Billboard Liberation Front, The Cacophony Society, and enjoyed the political jokes played by Michael Moore. Watching “Man on Wire,” I was inspired all over again. Here is a man who wanted to walk a wire between the World Trade towers just because it was so aesthetically perfect. Tell me you haven’t looked at those towers and thought “I wonder if anyone’s walked a high wire between them. I wonder if I could.”
Yes, the film has a lot of footage of the World Trade towers, and it would be easy to accuse “Man on Wire” of being a nostalgic echo of the days before the towers were knocked over, but I sensed little of that coming from the screen. Mostly because the bulk of the proceedings are overwhelmed by Petit himself, to this day a daring and genial and charismatic man who is still interested in being visible and daring.
Petit is a bit of a cad; he claims not to have made his walk for fame, and then proceeded to bone the first female fan who offered himself to him – on the way from the police station back to his hotel room where his girlfriend and other buddies were waiting. In interviews, he does seem a bit embarrassed by his actions, but not apologetic. Strangely, this only made him seem more interesting. I think an American could forgive his romantic dalliances merely because he is French. All French people have romantic dalliances, right?
I want to have lunch with Philippe Petit. I want him to tell the story again, and tell me about what he has planned for the future. I want to hear him chatter and see him smile in childlike wonder at his own dreams. It’s rare that one meets a person like him anymore. “Man on Wire” is a great way to spend time with him.