' Cinema Romantico: Revisiting Man On Wire

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Revisiting Man On Wire

Who else dug the moment during the Oscars when "Man On Wire" earned victory for Best Documentary and Phillipe Petit, the star of the film, the Man who was On the Wire himself, dashed in from his seat that was apparently tucked in way, way behind the stars and ascended the stage to tell us he would give the shortest acceptance in history only to then instantly renege on that claim and 1.) Do a magic trick and 2.) Balance director James Marsh's Oscar on his nose? It was my third favorite moment of the ceremony, behind Kate Winslet yelling out for her dad and then him whistling at her and the whole Steve Martin/Tina Fey tete-a-tete (those two should be in a movie together and, no, "Baby Mama" doesn't count because they need to be in a movie where they write the screenplay).

I saw "Man On Wire" back in August the day it hit theaters in Chicago. The problem is the day I saw it coincided with the start of the Summer Olympics and, as I believe I made clear on this blog with my incessant posts relating to them, the Olympics tend to consume me and fill me with a joy that can overwhelm and this fact, I think, failed to let me realize the true grandiosity of "Man On Wire".

I knew it was good. I gave it a solid review. I even put it in my Top 5 of the year, but the way I did it was not in any way representative of this movie's sheer quality and marvel. Rewatching it, I was again moved to the very depth of my being. It is a wonder. A movie of magic and dreams and determination and inspiration.

I love the beginning of the film and the way Marsh contrasts the building of the twin towers with the birth of Petit's idea to walk between them. The music that is used and the way it's done is just so epic. Really, really epic. It's like greek myth epic. Can it get more epic than that? And how many times can I use the word epic? (Answer: as many as I damn well please.)

It's like when I watched "Troy" I remember feeling nothing. It was so god-awful boring. I mean, it's the story of Achilles and Helen of Troy and the wooden horse and the thousand ships and the whole thing but there's no scope, no grandeur, no sweep, no - deal with it! - epicness. Most especially there is no sense of destiny. "Man on Wire" has all that! All of it! And it's a true story! That is just amazing!

I'm an extremely spiritual person, though, as my friend Rory has noted, in an extremely non-traditional way, and watching "Man On Wire" only makes me feel that more. In the effort to pull off this "heist", to stage the ultimate performance piece, there so many dozens of moments in which the whole enterprise nearly goes up in a puff of smoke, so many near misses, so many close calls, and the fact that none of them prevent the end result, well, I'll let you be the judge of what that may or may not mean.

Therefore today I would like to officially apologize to director James Marsh and advise that upon further review I saw four great movies in 2008, not three, and, thus, I have revised my Top 5 Movies of last Year and shifted "Man On Wire" to #4 and "The Wackness" to #5 and and now will encourage you to rent this movie at once, whether you have seen it already or not. It deserves to be seen a second time. It will make you believe all things are possible.

"I would have a toothache for a week but what's the pain now that I've acquired my dream?" - Phillipe Petit

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