Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

High Wire Act 

Wednesday, Oct 15 2008
Comments
Even as the first girders were laid in the mid-1960s, something about the World Trade Center -- that twin-pronged erection jutting from the loins of Western commerce -- inspired fantasies of lustful conquest. As James Marsh's documentary Man on Wire tells it, a mischievous French teenager was sitting in a dentist's office in 1968 when a magazine image caught his eye. It was a sketch of two gleaming towers, under construction, piercing the clouds above lower Manhattan. But their height was less intriguing than the short distance between them -- a mere 140 feet, just a puny gap in the drawing. Instantly, Philippe Petit found his guiding passion. Across that gap, the Parisian street performer and would-be wire walker inked in the detail that would consume his life for the next six years: a straight line. Part caper movie, part real-life superhero saga, and entirely engrossing, Man on Wire recounts in Rififi-like detail how Petit dodged cops, fought the elements, and defied seemingly impossible logistics to pull off a feat of death-defying frivolity: an illegal, hastily rigged tightrope walk on August 7, 1974, across the 1,350-foot plunge between the towers. Still lithe and trim, with a strangely well-muscled delicacy, the middle-aged Petit animates Man on Wire with his impish presence. Almost from the moment he saw the towers, Petit recalls, he began to plot his way to New York: first by practicing endlessly on a home-rigged high wire, then by taking warm-up runs (such as a mid-air stroll between the towers of Notre Dame). He assembled a core group -- including his then-girlfriend, Annie Allix, and his boyhood chum, Jean-Louis Blondeau -- for moral and physical support, though they privately worried he was courting death. Although it's taken from Petit's written 2002 account -- which he had begun, in a stroke of savage irony, just as the site of his great "coup" was eradicated by cataclysmic assault -- the story presented here is natural movie material.
Sun., Oct. 26; Mon., Oct. 27, 2008

About The Author

Jim Ridley

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"