August 10, 2009
Man on Wire
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2009
On August 7, 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit tightrope-walked between the World Trade Center towers. Then he turned around and did it seven more times, even dancing on the wire and juggling. This in itself is pretty amazing. But the fact that he did it without permission is jaw-droppingly astounding. Think about it: he and his crew had to get a ton of equipment up onto the roof of the 104-story north tower, string a 450-pound (214kg) cable across the 200 feet (61 meters) to the south tower, pull it tight and stabilize it, all without anyone noticing. This, needless to say, takes a lot of planning, some luck, and not a small amount of obsession. We learn, for example, that Petit decided he had to do this when he saw a magazine article on the planned towers, long before they were built. Documentarian James Marsh has assembled some archival footage of the preparations, still photos of the wire-walk, talking-head interviews (mainly with the passionate and mischievous Petit), and a few restaged scenes to create something that plays more like a well-paced bank heist flick than a documentary. Petit was arrested for disturbing the peace but the charges were dropped.