16 September 2008


In 1974, Philippe Petit, an impish, excitable young Frenchman did an impossible thing—he managed to string a tightrope across the roofs of the World Trade Center twin towers and walk on it (although "dancing" seems a more fitting description). James Marsh's (THE KING, WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP) documentary explains how he did this.

Structured like a heist film, MAN ON WIRE recounts in-depth the planning and preparation that went into pulling off such a stunt. It's both an edge-of-your-seat thriller and an oral history of sorts, consisting of modern day interviews with the ever sinewy Petit and his accomplices—most of whom are nearly as entertaining as Petit, from his still-in-awe ex-girlfriend Annie to two perpetually stoned Americans (bluntly described by the others as "losers") who were corralled in to string the rope.

Marsh supplements these interviews with archival footage and reenactments. The latter might be the least cheesy ever: impressionistic and mostly in silhouette or shadow, they're delicately folded into the story and rarely register as jarring or distracting. Still, the archival footage is astonishing, from Petit's prior tightrope walking feats across the Sydney Harbor bridge and the Norte Dame cathedral to his prep work in the French countryside—his irreverent spirit there is summed up by a puckish handmade road sign pointing the way to the "World Trade Center Association" with a crude stick figure drawing at its side of Petit walking across the towers.

It all builds to the event itself, which unfolds in a series of still shots of Petit on the rope, 100 stories up from the ground, accompanied by Erik Satie's gorgeous piano piece "Gymnopédie No.1" (as effective here in its starkness and simplicity as it was in FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON). What's so appealing about the film is that it examines an artist who puts on a show, rather than one merely showing off. Petit's walk comes off not only as a challenge to realize or an act of rebellion, but as work of art, something full of grace and beauty.

Neither Marsh nor his subjects make a single direct reference to 9/11, and they don't need to. Just the sight of the towers themselves resonates differently than it once did. The towers' presence on screen haunts and their absence adds weight to Petit's accomplishment. Reminiscing on Petit's walk and its aftermath, one accomplice starts to say, "This was the end of something" before he breaks down in tears, and we immediately understand the dual meaning behind his words. MAN ON WIRE derives much of its power from being equal parts celebration and requiem.

14 September 2008

Over at Mewsings (in my first post in forever): ten fall indies I'm looking forward to seeing. To this shortlist, I would also add SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (new Danny Boyle film that won the audience award at Toronto and opens two days after MILK), CHOKE (Chuck Palahniuk adaptation with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston), RELIGULOUS (Bill Maher's stab at a Michael Moore-type screed about, duh. religion), DOUBT (prestigious play adaptation with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and THE BROTHERS BLOOM (whimsical follow-up from the director of BRICK). And I just may venture out to NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, since its director previously did this gem.

05 September 2008


Found this meme here; tagging these guys.

1. My uncle once: worked for Harley Davidson.

2. Never in my life: have I attended an NFL game.

3. When I was five: my maternal grandfather died.

4. High school was: painful for the first two years and much more enjoyable the other two.

5. I will never forget: the time my father made me laugh so hard at an Italian restaurant that Sprite came out of my nose (it *burns*, by the way).

6. Once I met: the prince of Cameroon (or so he claimed).

7. There’s this girl I know: who currently lives in Hawaii and whose last name is Sinatra.

8. Once, at a bar: in Winona., Minnesota, I was 21 and likely the only person of age (and w/out a fake I.D.) present.

9. By noon, I’m usually: nursing the few remaining sips of my iced coffee.

10. Last night: I ate Crispy Orange Chicken and saw FROZEN RIVER.

11. If only I had: more time (and motivation) to write.

12. Next time I go to church: violent thunder will probably light up the sky.

13. What worries me most: President Sarah Palin.

14. When I turn my head left I see: a disheveled pile of receipts on my desk.

15. When I turn my head right I see: a picture of my cute boyfriend.

16. You know I’m lying when: it sounds far too good to be true.

17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: top 40 radio of the era.

18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: possibly Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern.

19. By this time next year: I hope to have a better sense of what my profession is.

20. A better name for me would be: dork or any variation thereof.

21. I have a hard time understanding: why anyone would vote for McCain.

22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: do it if I don’t have to pay any more tuition.

23. You know I like you if: I talk your ear off.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: my mom.

25. Take my advice, never: see the movie CRASH.

26. My ideal breakfast is: light, fluffy pancakes, crisp savory bacon and coffee, coffee, coffee.

27. A song I love but do not have is: "Got to Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye.

28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: see the Milwaukee Art Museum.

29. Why won’t people: who drive respect cyclists and share the road.

30. If you spend a night at my house: I would keep you up drinking and watching DVDs far too late.

31. I’d stop my wedding for: nothing.

32. The world could do without: "Brangelia" (and any variation thereof).

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: um... sorry, I can't think of anything more disgusting than that!

34. My favourite blonde(s) is/are: Sarah Cracknell (female), James Dean (male).

35. Paper clips are more useful than: binder clips.

36. If I do anything well it’s: make a delicious sweet potato bake.

37. I can’t help but: have (or at least think of having) a nice, cold cocktail after a loooonnggg (or in this case not so long) work week.

38. I usually cry: at the end of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (yes, I admit it!).

39. My advice to my child/nephew/niece: don’t let any adults talk you into a hobby or social activity that you have absolutely no interest in.

40. And by the way: go see MAN ON WIRE if you can.