Man On Wire, 2007

(seen September 15, 2008, Pelham, NY)

*  *  *  *

“Man on Wire” read the entry on the arrest form in the box for describing the offense.  Three words which summarized a 45 minute tightrope walk ¼ mile up on a wire 200 feet long.

Philippe Petit, a 25 year old Frenchman, a juggler, unicyclist and street performer as are many others, but a wire walker like no other.  On August 7, 1974, Philippe danced the wire, lay down on it, wowed the crowd below in a once in a lifetime feat which changed him and all of us forever.  If you think that is an exaggeration, see this film.  If you don’t think it is an exaggeration, see it anyway.  Just see this film!  As a documentary it gets 4 stars unequivocally.

When considering the dangers of the walk–and he was not arrogant in that way.  He understood that he could die–He said “What a way to die;  doing what you love passionately.”

When Philippe first started walking his face was tense.  But within a few steps his friends noticed his face light up in a smile and they knew he was alright.

How did he get a 450 pound cable built by Rick Van Luvender who currently lives in West Pittston, PA, to the top of the twin towers?  He had a crew of somewhere around 6 people it seems.  I didn’t get a full account, but he had teams on both towers.  The cable was strung between them by shooting an arrow attached to fishing line from one to the other.  That was used as the transport for increasingly larger cords until the cable went across.  The footage is archival of the actual preparation and walk intertwined with current day interviews.

His answer to the inevitable why?  Well, two answers actually.  First he said there is no why.  But he also said:  “When I see three oranges, I juggle;  when I see two towers, I walk.”

An interesting note:  The WTC lacked public appeal up until the time of the walk,  The towers were considered ugly and utilitarian, but in 45 minutes Philippe Petit changed that perception forever. 

In the early 70’s, Petit regularly performed in Washington Square Park in
Greenwich Village using a slack rope.  He also walked from the Eiffel Tower to the Palais de Chaillot and many other buildings including the Louisiana Superdome.

The film won lots of awards including Sundance, well-deserved.

Music was great.  Very eclectic.  Some originals, but also “A Fifth of Beethoven” the rock version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and a section from Hall of the Mountain King from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.

I highly recommend this film.  If you can’t find it playing near you, don’t fret.  It is due out in DVD in the near future.  Buy it, Netflix it, beg it, borrow it or steal it. See it.




Philippe in 1974

Philippe today

on the wire between the twin towers

  New Yorker cover

September 11, 2006