The Reviewer: Man On Wire

Just what is art, anyway? Is it a classic Greek sculpture? Is it a blank canvas with nothing but a painted black square staring back at you? I have always been an advocate of expanding the confines of art, allow more not less, to qualify. Placing such rigid constraints upon art could limit the possibilities, creating a small box with which art is to fit inside – antithetical to the whole idea of creativity. The Oscar-winning documentary “Man on Wire” rebels against any art snobbery, forcing its viewers to acknowledge the art of life.

“Man on Wire” tells the story of Philippe Petit, a Frenchman with a big imagination, who achieved what is now revered as the greatest artistic crime of the century. In the middle of the night in August 1974, Mr. Petit and a group of associates illegally entered the World Trade Center, made their way to the top of both twin towers, and rigged a wire from roof to roof. Then, at around 7:15 a.m., Mr. Petit, practically walked on thin air for an hour, before finally surrendering to police waiting in awe on the roofs of both towers.

This is the best film I’ve seen in 2009 as of yet. I couldn’t recommend it more. The film is a work of art, defined by the art of wire walking it is documenting. The intricacies of the film mirrored Petit’s painstaking attention to detail; every aspect of the film was obviously intentional and carefully planned. The film’s classical piano score will move viewers as Petit dances on the wire, and it soon becomes apparent that no other music would suit the film as well. While classical music seemed an obvious choice, the decision between color and black and white was less clear. Director James Marsh impresses film aficionados by alternating between color and black and white, adding more visual flair to an already aesthetically enticing film.

The impeccable score, the interesting story devices and the showcase of the actual 35-year-old pencil drawings planning the scheme are all works of art, but the true art is the man on the wire. Mr. Petit delivers a thrill far exceeding my expectations, as he takes to the wire with such command and grace, you’d swear it couldn’t be real.

Mr. Petit is one of many narrators in the film, giving the audience a ground view of the high wire enigma. He lives up to all you’ve imagined, with wild eyes belonging only to a man truly moved by his own imagination. As friends and co-conspirators talk to the camera recounting memories and adoration of Philippe, I realized that Mr. Petit had seduced all of these people with his infatuation for adrenaline, fame and beauty. Mr. Petit speaks of his passion with such fervor; the audience sits in wonder of his life’s philosophy and his high wire gift, most certainly an art form.


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