List Film

Man On Wire (4 stars)

Cherishable and joyous tale from a more innocent age

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Man On Wire

Meet Philippe Petit – French artist, performer and high wire walker. On the afternoon of 6 August 1974, Petit and six accomplices set off for the World Trade Centre in an unmarked van. With forged ID passes and dressed as deliverymen they were about to commit the greatest victimless art crime of the century. The story of that daring caper, the practice events that led up to it (Notre Dame Cathedral and Sydney Harbour Bridge) and the genesis of this, the maddest of living performance artists is told in this engrossing and thrilling film.

Adapted from Petit’s book To Reach the Clouds and directed by James Marsh (whose seminal 1999 documentary Wisconson Death Trip created a new template for British documentary), Man on Wire takes the viewer on a remarkable psychological journey. By utilising the three acts of the heist thriller – recruiting a team of experts, planning and executing an ingenious scheme, the aftermath of betrayal and (mild) recrimination – Marsh keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Using a mixture of original footage, recreation (beautifully shot in black and white by cinematographer Igor Martinovic) and interviews tempered by Petit’s eccentric narration, Marsh also builds a very complete picture of his clearly insane protagonist. Petit emerges as that all too rare creature – the anarchist artist, closer in spirit and intent to the great Catholic anarchist, pacifist, vegetarian, draft refuser and tax resister Ammon Hennacy (who noted that ‘an anarchist is anyone who doesn’t need a cop to tell him what to do’) or original Yippee activist Abbie Hoffmann than to the performance artists, exhibitionists and circus carnies he is all too often lumped in with.

Man on Wire is a cherishable and joyous tale from a more innocent age, a time before dreams and the creation of marvels were eroded by the corrupt, the foolish and the paranoid.

General release from Fri 1 Aug.

Man on Wire Trailer

Man on Wire

  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • UK
  • 94 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: James Marsh

On the 6 August 1974, French artist, performer and hire wire walker, Phillipe Petit committed the biggest victimless art crime of the century. The story of that daring caper, the practice events that led up to it (Notre Dame Cathedral and Sydney Harbour Bridge) and the genesis of this the maddest of living performance…

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