Man On Wire

Posted on: 08 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

A dizzying documentary following one man's dream to walk the high-wire between New York's Twin Towers.

One of the most audacious stunts of all time provides the subject matter of James Marsh's stunning documentary Man on Wire.

The day is 7th August, the year 1974, and a 23-year-old Frenchman steps out on a thin wire suspended 1,350 feet above ground, between the twin towers of the then world's tallest building, New York's World Trade Center.

In ecstatic joy he dances on the wire for three quarters of an hour, crossing it eight times, before he is arrested.

Nixon is about to announce his resignation as President.  But it is Philippe Petit's illegal and clandestine high wire walk that steals the next day's headlines.

Philippe himself was taken for psychological evaluation, then brought to jail and finally released.

Following six and a half years of dreaming, Philippe spent eight months in New York, planning the execution of the coup.

Aided by a team of friends and accomplices, he had to find a way to bypass the WTC's security, smuggle the heavy steel cable and rigging equipment into the towers, pass the wire between the roof tops, and anchor the wire and tension it to withstand the winds and the swaying of the winds.

The rigging was done by night in complete secrecy, and at 7.15am on the appointed day Philippe took his first step on the high wire, way above the sidewalks of Manhattan.

Marsh's absorbing documentary, which is a testimony to the indomitability of the human spirit, brings Petit's remarkable adventure vividly to life through the testimony of Philippe himself and some of his co-conspirators who helped him create the daring and unique spectacle that became known as "the artistic crime of the century".

In short then this gripping, celebratory film - a hit at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and screened at the recent Edinburgh International Film Festival - takes you to the dizzy heights of Petit's extraordinary achievement and leaves you feeling breathless and awestruck.

Man on Wire is released nationwide on 1st August 2008.

Laurence Green

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