Saturday, December 13, 2008

DVDebut: MAN ON WIRE -- plus the latest in the Spanish Cinema Now series

Let's leave Spain briefly (though you can check in here for my most recent post re the FSLC's Spanish Cinema Now on GreenCine) for a look at one of the documentaries shortlisted for possible "Oscar" attention.

After all the start / stop / change horses midstream / begin again / "Mother-May-I" indecision regarding a memorial to commemorate the late World Trade Center, now that I have seen James Marsh's eclectic documentary MAN ON WIRE, I realize that the memorial already exists. It's this film -- that recalls the WTC in exactly the way I want to remember it: as the (at one time) tallest building in the world, around, in and on which some wonderful -- and terrible -- things happened. Among these, and probably the most remarkable and now purely pleasurable to view, is the amazing high-wire act of Frenchman Philippe Petit.

Mr. Marsh (below center and right) has pulled from all over the place -- NYC, France and Australia; present and past; old footage, re-creations and present-day interviews; guy friends, girlfriend, cops and officials -- to put his film together. The result encapsulates Petit's (below left) amazing talent and skill, the enormous amount of seemingly selfless help he got from friends and acquaintances, the staggering task at hand and -- finally -- the blessed result. Marsh has assembled his movie like a heist film, which in a sense this was, in which the loot is the event itself. Definitely an illegal act, Petit's high-wire walk nonetheless (as its participants point out) harmed no one and provided, out of the blue, a piece of near-miraculous history.

The movie itself provides even more: a modern-day remembrance of things past that includes a lost love for whom the loser seems to bear no ill will and waxes beautifully philosophic (how French!). For this viewer, however, the film brought home most resonantly something else to think about. How close in odd ways was Petit & company's act to that of some terrorists 27 years later: the initial it's-not-possible concept, followed by enormous planning and logistics, including even some physically rigorous training-camp experience, and finally the immense faith the participants had to have in their goal in order to continue. The terrorists' goal was destruction, Petit's group wanted a celebration. In both cases, security was lax, which allows us now to mourn the former and rejoice in the latter.

Imagine if, as shown here, all the energy, intelligence, talent and skill used to dance in the air over New York City could be channeled into achieving new and workable energy solutions? Now there's something for the Obama administration to consider. Rent the movie and consider this -- and a lot more -- yourself.

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