Saturday, December 17, 2016

Man on Wire

Year 8, Day 352 - 12/17/16 - Movie #2,493 - viewed on 9/3/16       

BEFORE: If you look back, you'll see that on Labor Day weekend, I was finally able to link to "Captain America: Civil War" and "Deadpool" - which left me no movies to watch that weekend, at least until Monday.  A few weeks before that, I'd blocked out the rest of my movies for the year on a calendar, and I realized I was setting myself up for failure - the time period between the premiere of "Rogue One" and December 25 was a rigorous one, it seemed like I'd be cramming too many movies into the week before Christmas, and that's really time that should be spent enjoying the holidays.  

But, with two free days on Labor Day weekend, I decided to get a jump on December.  Watching this film then, plus the dramatic Hollywood version of the same story, might allow me to double-up on the weekend of December 17-18, which would give me a greater chance of getting to Movie #2,500 - scheduled to be a Christmas-themed movie, on time.  

This, of course, assumed that I wouldn't give in to the temptation to tear apart my watchlist and re-assemble it for a period of three and a half months - unlikely to say the least.  But let's assume for a moment that I stayed on track, didn't change the list too much, and as I post this review it's mid-December, maybe there's a chill in the air.  Which is nice to think about, considering that it's currently 70 degrees in NYC and Hurricane Hermione is approaching the area.  

And as a bonus, I can watch two films about the World Trade Center in September, which seems more appropriate after 9/11.  Hey, at least I'll have something to talk about next week on the 15-year anniversary. 

THE PLOT: A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974.

AFTER: It's funny, I was rushing around on Friday (9/2) trying to get something shipped out to France via UPS, and everything was going wrong for me - that often seems to be par for the course right before a holiday weekend like Labor Day.  UPS failed to pick up the package as they said they would, so I had to hump it over to the main UPS center on 43rd St., which was open until 9 pm, even on the day before the 3-day weekend.  As I skirted the edge of Times Square, I noticed a lot of people staring up toward the sky, many taking pictures, and I just thought, "Stupid tourists, probably never saw skyscrapers before."  But when I took a second to look up, I saw a plane skywriting a message.  Oh, so THAT'S what everyone's looking at.  You almost never see skywriting any more, it's like a lost art or something, or maybe that's just in New York.  

And this film is all about someone in the air catching the attention of the people on the ground - that time in the 1970's when a tightrope walker managed to get a line across the Twin Towers and walk across and back, eight times in all.  To the people on the ground, he must have looked just like a little speck.  They probably couldn't even see the wire, so it must have seemed like that man-speck was floating in the air, right?  I went to the top of the WTC one time, and from the observation deck I don't think it was possible to see people on the ground, that's how high the towers were.  So what chance did people on the ground have of seeing Philippe Petit thousands of feet up?   Or really being able to appreciate his lying down on the rope?  

Really, this seemed to be more about Philippe himself, proving that this feat could be done - he had previously walked across the two towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and two towers at the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  So when he saw that two towers were being built in lower Manhattan, he became obsessed with the idea of walking between them.  I guess everyone sees things a little differently, where most people saw two office buildings, Petit saw a gap that could be walked across, and years later, other people saw something that could be turned into a pile of rubble.  

I don't mean to lump Petit in with terrorists, but the fact of the matter is that what he did was illegal.  Oh, it didn't hurt anyone outright, and there may not have been any malicious intent, but laws exist to protect everyone, including the law-breakers themselves.  Even though he clearly had the talent to walk across this wire, it was still an unsafe, foolhardy act.  Maybe I just can't get behind it because I have a rational fear of heights - I don't say it's an "irrational" fear, because I believe it's OK to be afraid of something that can kill you.  And a fall from that distance certainly foots the bill.  

So it's really an "artistic crime" that was committed, right?  Well, not really, because I'm not sure if walking on a high-wire is an art, or just a skill.  Anyway, an "artistic crime" would be something more like a mime performing, or a hipster busking in the subway.  Petit and his crew passed through many of the security protocols that were in place at the World Trade Center, using fake badges and disguises to get their cables, tethers and other equipment into place.  This makes me wonder if they had the decency afterwards to point out exactly where the lapses in security were.  I'm guessing changes were made after this high-wire act took place, and probably some security personnel were sacked - so to me that's not really a victimless crime.  

In interviews, Petit remembers the details of his feat, and his (very French) suggestion is that if he were to die while pursuing his passion, what a "beautiful death" that would be.  I can't really find the truth in this logic, because death is death, and we should all try to stave it off for as long as possible, right?  I mean, who wants to rush headlong into the abyss, just to do the thing that they love?  Doesn't it make more sense to try and stay alive, so you can do the things that you love for a longer period of time?  

This documentary was a mix of interviews, footage from the 1970's of Petit's rehearsal walks, and recreations with actors of events that were never filmed - like the infamous walk itself.  Turns out that one piece of equipment that everyone in Petit's crew forgot to bring was a camera.  There's no filmed footage of the event, which, like the moon landing, now leads some people to believe that it never took place.  Of course it did, there's an arrest record for the man and everything - and we all know that police never lie about anything, right?  

Starring Philippe Petit, Annie Allix, Jean-Francois Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, David Forman, Alan Weiner, Barry Greenhouse, Paul McGill (last seen in "Fame"), David Demato, Ardis Campbell, Aaron Haskell.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 security guards

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