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on 13 July 2009
I had seen this in the cinema when it was released and thought it was amazing. Whilst it got rave reviews, unfortunately it was only on in cinemas for a very limited time - one night only in the case of most places.....such a shame as it is truly fantastic. It tells the story of how Philippe Petit walked between the Twin Towers in New York - something which is all the more poignant now that they are no longer there. It is part documentary, with all the people involved in the planning and execution of this insane and incredible feat telling their story. There is also a dramatic reconstruction of how the team were able to get into the Towers and footage of Philippe practicing for this. It also includes footage of his walks between other towers - Notre Dame in Paris and Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and an interview with the man himself.
In the wide screen of the cinema, it was both dramatic and exciting and watching it again on DVD was still an "edge of your seat" experience.
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on 4 August 2008
`Man On Wire' is a documentary chronicling Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers. A meticulously planned and highly illegal stunt, which involved years of clandestine plotting and finally a generous amount of good luck, director James Marsh claims the story struck him as "a heist movie", and it is evident in the telling. More exciting than all the `Ocean's' films put together, `Man On Wire' is the latest addition to the decade's role call of brilliant documentaries that have revolutionalised the form. From 'Fog of War', `Capturing the Friedmans', `Touching the Void', `Etre et Avoir', and `Grizzly Man', the noughties is replete with fine documentaries that have treated their subjects with a dynamism and imagination that in many cases belies the relative paucity of materials at their filmmakers' disposal. `Man on Wire' most closely resembles `Touching the Void' in that it mixes talking head accounts of real life events with largely reconstructed footage to create a gripping and engaging film. `Man on Wire' even uses fragmented narrative techniques from cinema to stimulate it structurally, and is scored beautifully by Michael Nyman.

Fundamentally, `Man on Wire' succeeds in communicating the transcendent beauty of the highwire act, and depicts Petit's mission as a great artistic - albeit meglomaniacal - vision. The depth of belief in this vision - from the man himself but equally from his co-conspirators, who had to invest enormous emotional and legal risks to help him - is stunningly justified in the scarce photographic footage of the event. And the documentary does more than just give you the story behind the infamous stunt, but touches upon - poignantly, but not explicitly - how the friendships of those involved became severed after its act, and the fatalistic sentiments by the protagonists on this subject is deeply poignant. Once he had become famous, the role of Petit's co-consirators - the logisticians whithout whom the stunt wouldn't have been possible - was quietly forgotten.

There is also the spectre, not mentioned in `Man On Wire' and not overtly implied, of the "falling man" of 9-11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers. What is eerily poetic about this film is that it is indicative of the many other myths and legends ingrained in the World Trade Centre before the hijackings. September 11th is not the only narrative associated with the Twin Towers, which, like all iconic buildings, have many ghosts: some benign, many not. But it is impossible to separate the terrifying image of black-suited Petit lying upon the tightrope as if suspended in clouds with the headfirst descent of the business-suited falling man. Moreover, while the Twin Towers themselves represented a rather megalomaniacal human need to build ever bigger structures, Petit's walk in the sky somehow transformed them momentarily into the gates of heaven. Brilliant.
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on 22 February 2009
Philippe Petit, a Frenchman high-wire walker was unknown to most people until one summer morning in 1974 he walked across the twin towers on a high-wire. A feat that took him months of secret preparations to accomplish and landed him in prison - outastanding feats always seem to provoke the small-minded. The British documentarist James Marsh, after a long but always as exciting, introduction on Petit's previous feats (walking on a high-wire across Notre Dame Casthedral in Paris and later on Sidney's Harbor Bridge in Australia), relates Petit's twin towers feat like a "Rififi" type of thriller, presenting in detail all the aspects of the preparation and editing his material tightly and with a rythm that catches your breath. Here is a suspenful, some times humorous, drama that at the same time moves you to the point of crying. What the film is finally about is that of a courageous man who, against all logic, walks up and down on a wire, high up in the sky, sitting and relaxing in-between, almost dancing, like a Fred Astaire of the skies, for more than 45 minutes, challenging man, nature and the whole universe, making you feel that you can do anynthing you want as long as you really believe in it! But what is still more exciting is the beauty of it all, of those wonderful images of that man up there, alone and happy, enjoying his Sky Odyssey. A film worthy of many Oscars!!!
Ninos Mikelides
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on 16 February 2009
When a documentary beats Slumdog Millionaire, Hunger, Mama Mia and In Bruges to the Outstanding British Film BAFTA you become very happy when it's just dropped through the letterbox. Simon Chinn and James Marsh's film tells the story (of which I was completely unaware) of Phillipe Petit's daring and illegal high-wire walk between the World Trade Centre's twin towers in New York in 1974. The mixture of interview, reconstruction and archive footage immediately brings to mind the superb Touching The Void (itself a BAFTA winner) and this film succeeds in much the same way; building tension, slowly revealing character and showing the devastating impact of a singular event on the lives of those involved.

The film drops you straight into the middle of the action as the various players make their way to the twin towers. Some have criminal sounding names like 'The Australian' or AKA's but we know that this is 'the artistic crime of the century', one with no victims, only leaving those who witnessed it touched by something special. At the centre, Petit is a clownish figure, unsurprising given his street-performer background, looking as a young man a little like Malcolm McDowell but his face now is softened and comical as he takes obvious pleasure from telling the story. This is contrasted with the obvious distress caused to those nearest and dearest to him. His girlfriend talks with great honesty about how this singular man completely dominated her life and conveys even today the sheer magic of being a spectator to his stunts. His closest friend Jean Louis Blondeau is touchingly emotional, conveying more than anyone else the culpability his accomplices felt in an event that could very well of course ended in death.

The element that luck plays in this plan's fulfilment is staggering and when you combine this with the fact that Petit had first come up with the idea on seeing a picture of the towers before construction had even begun (his simple hand-drawn line between the two buildings a perfect illustration of his joyous naivete) you begin to feel that this event had to happen. The effect on those who saw it is palpable, in one great piece of footage the arresting officer is clearly in thrall to this 'tight-rope dancer'. This is what makes the event and its remembrance in this superlative documentary such a fitting way to reclaim the towers from the event which removed them, the event which isn't mentioned once, but which casts such a long shadow that simply seeing a photograph of Petit on the wire, a plane flying past in the background, is enough to remind us of the singularity of his achievement, never to be repeated.

Even if you have a mild touch of vertigo like me this film is a must-see.
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on 29 November 2015
Until last week searching for words of wisdom,,,,,did I come upon the man by the name....Philippe the end of this film I felt for the first time that angels really exist......this is a man wired in more ways than you would think possible....between the towers he is david Bowieand the angel of death. The world loves cool.....this is the first time I would use that word ..he does not need effect or project an image of himself to the world.....he is the image....the cast of friends and lovers are very important, and when you hear the most emotive description by his closest friend and lover....well I cried like a new born baby with they in this world of fools?????....yes they are ...that tune by Eric still life photo's say far more than film ever a masterpiece 45 mins..up on that wire.....the haunting image as plane flys over the tower....and how quick they were on the scene!!!!!!!!!!!....let's not spoil on the wire is a film from the gods about the gift that many wish to take away from us all......and that is this films greatest legacy....he is a special human being..and I thank the big man for sharing him with us ...even like me you are blinded by the good things beyond the end of my nose....this film is on wire..Will maybe inspire the young away from someone else's idea of eternity and the gift of life as well as its fragility.
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on 23 November 2008
Firstly, this film is an absolute treasure!

It is fascinating... an excellent mix of original footage and reconstruction... and most importantly, an inspiration to the viewer.
Outright entertainment from start to finish (but note: there's a suprising 'naughty' bit at the end, so be ready to cover granny's eyes).

Basically... Buy! Buy! Buy!

But, advice for those who have not seen the film:
(of which there may be many, because this film criminally was overlooked for national distribution)...
there's no benefit to choosing blu-ray rather than dvd (as there's no footage that will improve with the extra definition... the archive footage was filmed in the early seventies!!!).
So save a few pounds & choose the dvd, rather than blu-ray...
...but definitely BUY this film!!!
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on 4 August 2008
This is without doubt the most awe inspiring documentary I've ever seen. Beautiful archive footage of the planning and lead up to this most daring and glorious stunt shows how the 21th century has become nothing more than a time of gutless media spin. This is the human spirit at its best. Watching this will make you fell more alive and introduce you to the most daring and difficult to exorcize prank in history
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I read Philippe Petit's book "To Reach The Clouds" which tell the story of these events a few years ago and even as a book it was a thrilling tale, but as a film it is something else.

Back in 1974, when I was three years old, Philippe Petit had already completed tightrope walks between the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the towers of Notre Dame cathedral, but he had bigger plans. Long before these feats he had seen an article in a magazine whilst in a dentist's waiting room about the future construction of the World Trade Centre, and an idea formed in his mind. From that moment on he wanted to perform incredible tightrope walks, usually without permission, and he knew that the World Trade Centre would be the ultimate.

The film tells the story of how the feat was accomplished, and the voices we hear are those of the perpetrators, including - and most engagingly of all - Petit himself. Most of those involved speak English, but some don't - be prepared for a few subtitles - and the story is told through film shot by the team, photographs (the walk between the towers wasn't filmed) and some subtly done dramatisation which still feels archival.

As a documentary it works extremely well, and in several places it is even exciting as you wonder if they'll be spotted by a security guard, and ask yourself how they'll get the cable between the buildings (the solution is ingenious, if a little Heath-Robinson). Overall the fact that they achieved their goal is a superb example of triumph over adversity.

One last thing. Don't worry about seeing footage of the 9/11 attacks - that terrible event isn't even mentioned.

A superb documentary, and an excellent film all round.
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on 15 June 2016
A quietly enthralling documentary about a man and his friends preparing for and effecting two outrageous aerial events (to call them high wire is to belittle the unlikely achievements). They would seem to suspend probability in the same way that Warner Bros. cartoon characters do but here is a real man outdoing Road Runner and Wily E. Coyote in an unassuming, gravity defeating style.

The events themselves fuse together performance art, installation and parcour and seem a very long way from the type of wire act seen in the circus. There is a joining together of nations in the people interviewed but this does not detract from watching, it is easily understood and the subtitling is minimal. Shot in a lovely soft grainy, retro style it speaks beautifully as windows into the past when the events occurred. Those events almost being outdone in the detailed and tenacious preparations. The understanding of the architecture, the study of the security, the rehearsals and the preparations of the man to undertake the mission with virtually only the resources he came into the world with. Amazing.
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on 15 February 2016
A well recounted tale in the best of BBC4 Storyville traditions with lots of interesting archive footage of rehearsals for the wire walk in the French countryside and realistic recreations of the big night in the Twin Towers. A great character, as you would imagine, the high wire walker is a man possessed with his passion to walk between the towers. I was still left wondering a little why he so wanted to do it and would've liked more detail about how they actually fixed the wire between the two buildings.
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