Man on Wire
Man on Wire Director: James Marsh


On of the year's most celebrated documentaries is also a story of courage, show business and personal glory. In 1974, French aerialist did the seemingly impossible… he walked across a high-wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Not only was this a seminal moment for the recently completed structure, but also had a poetic prophecy of the Towers that would fall nearly 30 years later on the attacks of 9-11. Daredevil Philippe Petit, who brought together a motley crew to help him realize his dream is an adventure tale that astonishes in every respect. The film, which won both the Jury and Audience Awards at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, chronicles the outrageous stunt, its planning and its legal aftermath (it was apparently illegal to do a high-flying wire act).

The film is structured in a movie-withina- movie fashion, with the action of that day hurtling forward in segments, as Petit's background and previous high-wire stunts (including walks across the towers of Notre Dame and the Sydney Bridge) is told chronologically. Petit is not only a skilled aerialist, but a master publicist and raconteur, spinning out thoughts in his deliciously accented English with an uncontained joie de vivre. The film's high point (so to speak) is the actual wire walk, which put Petit in a mortal danger that could not but impress all those who witnessed it firsthand or on television.

Director Marsh brilliantly matches his images to the hypnotic and propulsive music of English minimalist composer Michael Nyman, which induces a kind of giddiness of its own. The legal aftermath and the emotional resonance of what would happen to the Towers only a few decades afterwards, makes for a striking and overwhelming human drama and one of the best films of the year.

Sandy Mandelberger


Festivals and awards: Sundance, (Audience Award, Grand Jury Prize), Tribeca, Karlovy Vary (Best Documentary), Edinburgh, Rome
Links: Homepage, Trailer

Programme: Special programme of culture and music documentaries "Diverse World"

Country: UK
Year: 2007
Length: 94
Language: English
Producer: Simon Chinn
Screenplay: Simon Chinn
Director: James Marsh
Cinematography: Igor Martinovic
Music: Michael Nyman
Editor: Jinx Godfrey
Producer: Wall to Wall Productions


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James Marsh

James Marsh (b. 1963, UK) graduated from Oxford University and then worked for the BBC. His first documentary "Troubleman" (1994) chronicled the last years of soul singer Marvin Gaye. His next film was a documentary about the bizarre eating habits of Elvis Presley, "The Burger and the King" (1996). In 2005 Marsh's feature debut "The King" was screened at Cannes, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. MAN ON WIRE is his sixth full-length documentary.

Troubleman (1994), The Burger and the King (1996, doc), Wisconsin Death Trip (1999), The Team (2003, doc, co-dir), The King (2005), Man on Wire (2007)


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