Saturday 23 October 2010

Man on Wire

I guess I'm not the only one who gets a little tingle from seeing the twin towers in pre 2001 New York film scenes. I particularly like seeing footage of the construction of the towers in the early 70's. It's a time that's of interest for me because it seems to resonate so strongly from the screen. I chose this Italian trailer with the Eric Satie piano piece because it's infinitely more delicate than the over the top editing for the the U.S market trailer complete with basso profondo voiceover.

I've had this story on my radar for quite some time. I'm not really sure if there was a transition from knowing about the story to being aware of the documentary but for some reason I couldn't imagine it being any more interesting than a long news clip or a very short film. I couldn't have been more wrong. There's a bunch of stuff going on in this extraordinary documentary film. There's no way of anticipating the kind of details that always emerge during the act of doing something dangerous over a period of time. The close scrapes. The near misses. The ominous omens. On their own they are reason to believe it's worth an hour and a half of your time.

But there are other dimensions that caught me by surprise. The incongruous sentiments of detailed planning worthy of a bank heist, flying back and forth between New York and Paris over and over again, combined with a sort of physical poetry of performance, and an essential ability to inspire or seduce all around him into collaborating. It's an ability that falls apart too quickly to be left unmoved by the tears of his best friend on one or two occasions.

The last time I saw something this creative was back in Beijing with the Parisian Ballet company protesting in mid act to the intelligentsia and elite of Peking (and a white boy in baseball cap) over the knee jerk sentiments of blind Chinese nationalism to Olympic torch protests in France. 

This is a moving piece of film with unexpected dynamics and curious details that I can't imagine ever being done any better. Most striking for me is the interstitial editing of film sequences of a younger Philip Pettit practising in France. There was no way of knowing it would be used for a film many years later but it's done so elegantly that the juxtaposition is fused with a sense of poetic connection. Much like the wire across those twin towers.