Man on Wire (James Marsh) 2008

Man on Wire is about a French tightrope walker in 1974 who broke into the World Trade Center and performed a high wire act between the two towers. Some called it the artistic crime of the century. This documentary is set up as part heist movie, part historical documentary, part character study, and part statement on art. This is another film I wish I could have loved more but couldn’t. Everything I have heard about this movie from other people is that it is “Exhilirating, Amazing, A Triumph of Will, The Greatness of Human Spirit” etc, etc. I guess I am a huge Grinch in that I didn’t find it nearly as magical and wonderful as other people see it. I am not taking away from the skill used here. I fully admit Philippe has more balls than I would ever have to break into the WTC and do an almost certain death high wire act between them. I am not taking away anything from that.

I do not believe the mythological figure the movie presents of Philippe and his grand intentions of it being a purely “artistic expression”. Philippe in his interviews are so vain and amazed at himself it is hard to look past the smug. When he does make his achievement, he does not hesitate to literally screw the first groupie he sees and sever all ties with his former friends (even though they were the ones who organized it and got in the most trouble for it). I find it really hard to believe that Philippe was not all about fame instead of the “artistic gift to the world” nonsense he tries to peddle to us.

The movie is well made. Marsh gets all of the conspirators together to talk about it and Marsh has a complete historical figure to bring the story together. I dunno I just couldn’t believe in all the whimsy and wonder being presented. I couldn’t shake the feeling there was something more to the story that was covered up to satisfy Philippe’s ego and hero worship.

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