August 2nd: Sky High

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161. Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008)

How high is 1350 feet? I can’t properly visualise it. In 1974 Philippe Petit planned and executed a wire walk, 1350 feet up, between the two World Trade Centre towers. This documentary tells of the events that lead to this so-called ‘art-crime of the century’.

There’s a lot of credit to dish around here, director James Marsh and his editor, the excellently named Jinx Godfrey, have conspired to create an exhilarating film about an event which has no clear existing footage. They are aided by the charismatic ball of energy that is Petit. His excitable narration lends momentum to the film which consists predominantly of existing footage of Petit and his crew performing similar stunts at Notre Dame, Sydney Harbour Bridge and training for the World Trade Centre. There are interviews of the other people involved and some minor reconstructions too. By the time the operation is in full swing I was completely wrapt. Petit is such a fascinating character, the stunt itself is so bold and the whole operation seems doomed to never get off the ground. That’s why it doesn’t matter that you don’t actually see any footage of the event. The news helicopter film was far too indistinct and the footage from the ground was the same. But I didn’t care, the photographs, the description and the power of a well made documentary sold me.

The event itself is absolutely awe inspiring. It gets more so when they reveal that Petit didn’t just walk from one side to the other. I won’t spoil it by saying what he did whilst he was up there but it sends my vertigo off just by thinking about it. It’s a phenomenal achievement that has been honoured with an excellent documentary.

3 thoughts on “August 2nd: Sky High”

  1. I loved this! I saw it at the cinema where the film works so well on the big screen. What I enjoyed most was the ‘heist’ like way the story unfolded. You’re absolutely right about Petit, his energy is infectious.

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