Title: Man on Wire
Country: UK, USA
Language: English, French
Genre: Documentary, Biography
Director: James Marsh
Writer: Philippe Petit
Music: Michael Nyman
Cinematography: Igor Martinovic
Jean François Heckel
From UK director James Marsh, this Academy award BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE winner is a distinguishing of its own kind, it marvellously mends the interview with a re-enactment of the electrifying tightrope routine performed in World Trade Centre’s twin towers in 1974 which was exerted illegally by French daredevil Philippe Petit and his team. So differ from other fly-on-the-wall documentaries, this allow Marsh to show off some intricate camera work to polish the film, the patchwork of authentic archives and the man-made acting montages is outstanding and infuses the audience with an experience of witnessing a live-action feature.
Also the timing of the film is apropos, the melancholic memories of two towers could be intrigued feasibly, especially among Americans and those who have been there, which I assume is partly contributed to the film’s triumph in the academy. But for me, although I have steeped into all the tension and frisson which tightrope walking (I have acrophobia) and the illegal bravura effectively conducted, I have a hunch that there is a big loophole concealed inside, which hampers the film to quench my thirst.
The real reason behind Philippe’s break-up with his best friend Jean François Heckel and his lover Annie Allix, which I believe has been intentionally eluded (an occasional sex affair with a groupie cannot be the whole story), which would penetrate into a more private world of those people, and could be the most evocative part, but unfortunately Marsh is not bold enough (or more plausibly Petit and his co-workers don’t intend to unveil their ugly side of the story, for instance, if someone I do truly love wants to do this kind of suicide-like stunt, I swear I will never assist this behaviour because the selfish side of love will stymie me), nevertheless it is the most compelling and probably the most meaningful fodder beside all the pompous adventurers’ antics. After my afterthought is that Marsh has failed to lift this film into a deeply affecting once-in-a-lifetime chef-d’oeuvre although he and Philippe have the lucky straw.
The sad core tune near the beginning (from the composer Michael Nyman) gives a sentimental nostalgia and has an unparalleled echo with the ending, when the present Philippe doing his routine on the tightrope in the garden alone by himself, poignantly pointing out that maybe the perilous height will not kill him but the desolate egotism will eventually get this luckiest man-on-the-wire.