Man on Wire

Hello from beautiful Vancouver, Canada!

On the plane ride over here (thank you KLM), I finally caught Man on Wire, a documentary about Philippe Petit’s legendary (and illegal) 1974 stunt where he tightrope-walked between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers:

The film is a must-see! It’s absolutely spell-binding – all the excitement of a good heist flick (e.g. Oceans 11), mixed with a fascinating portrait of Petit and his reverence for life on the edge of life.

What I never appreciated until seeing the film is the sheer beauty of Petit’s feat. I had always written it off as an impressive (albeit pathological) publicity stunt. But now I can see that it was so much more – surely one of the greatest performance art pieces of its time.

The clip above, from the climax of the film, does a wonderful job conveying the artistry of the whole performance (though I should note that the clip is significantly more powerful viewed in the context of the full film). Seeing those photos of Petit walking amongst the clouds, with Erik Satie’s famous “Trois Gymnopedies I” playing so peacefully over a muted NYC soundscape, I found myself very moved by the power of the audiovisual imagery. Equally compelling are the interview snippets with Petit’s accomplices, who break down crying even just reminiscing about the stunt.

The paradox here is that an act so reckless can simultaneously be so life-affirming. Inspiring stuff.

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