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The French acrobat Philippe Petit thrilled the world in 1974 when he snuck up to the top of the World Trade Center and performed the world's greatest high wire walk: unbelievably walking a tight rope back and forth between the famous twin towers. The film uses a combination of home movies, interviews and snippets of heist films to capture Petit's "artistic crime of the century".

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In 1973 a man secretly set up a tightrope between two pylons of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge overnight, and stopped traffic the next morning as he tiptoed across. That man was Philippe Petit and a year later, he repeated the trick, this time on a wire secretly - and with great ingenuity, luck and chutzpah - slung between the two equally iconic (and post 9/11 even more so) towers of New York's World Trade Centre.

This fabulous story is now told as a documentary by Petit and the small team who helped him. Part re-enactment, part archival home movie, part historical and part social document, the subject is ideal as a story more fantastic than fiction. Not only is it structured for maximum effect and in chronological order, but with an inventiveness that overcomes the absence of visual materials from the era. British filmmaker James Marsh manages to weave the matter of relationships into the story, which has all the elements of a cliff hanger - literally as well as metaphorically.

The film also gains tremendous energy from Petit himself, whose passion and poetic approach to his life gives the film a depth and a sense of illumination that is riveting. In a world of major disasters, conflicts and fears, this relatively small (but brazen, death defying) act of one man reverberates as a reminder that human nature is endlessly resilient.

Review by Louise Keller:
Nut, conman or artist? Man on Wire is a film with everything - truth, drama, suspense, tension, sex, heartbreak, humour, crime and triumph. The fact that the Twin Towers are at the centre of this controversial and astonishing story about a rebellious French tightrope walker whose dream was to conquer impossible but beautiful challenges, adds an additional layer of poignancy. Sometimes there is no why, Philippe Petit answers to the many who ask why he wanted to illicitly walk a tightrope between the two tallest buildings in the world. We hear first hand how it all came about in this gripping and incredibly moving documentary which combines interviews, re-enactments and archival footage of not only the event itself when the crowds of New York gaped wide eyed as their heads turned to the heavens, but the painstaking planning and preparation involved.

Petit was 17 years old when he read about the planned construction of the Twin Towers in a magazine while waiting in a French dental surgery. He felt as though the towers had been built especially for him and belonged to him, his girlfriend Annie tells in an interview. His wire-walking exploits at Notre Dame Cathedral in 1971 and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1973, seem like rehearsals for the ultimate and impossible feat - balancing, reclining, walking and turning - 1,350 feet above the pavements of Manhattan. It was nearly 8 years later, just before his 25th birthday, that his dream was realised.

Based on Petit's book 'To Reach The Clouds', director James Marsh has structured the film not unlike that of a bank heist. We meet the accomplices, learn about the pitfalls, how they are overcome and get to understand the value of the prize. It is with fascination that we get to know Petit and his friends. There's a joyous mood as he rehearses on a wire constructed in his back garden and frolics in the grass with his friends. The participation of his girlfriend Annie and best friend Jean-Louis (Petit's all-important wingman and without whom he would never have been able to 'dance on the wire'), are crucial to the film's success. In particular, it is the relationship between the devoted Jean-Louis that touches and moves us - as well as him - to tears. If you want something, nothing is impossible, says Petit in this inspiring, wondrous and uplifting film that defies the odds - but there is always a cost.

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(US/UK, 2008)

CAST: Documentary featuring Philippe Petit

PRODUCER: Simon Chinn

DIRECTOR: James Marsh

SCRIPT: Based on Philippe Petit's book 'To Reach The Clouds'


EDITOR: Jinx Godfrey

MUSIC: J. Ralph


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2008

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