In the Q&A session that followed the
New York premiere of “Man on Wire” at the Tribeca Film
Festival, Director James Marsh revealed that he had approached this
New York showing with great trepidation. After all, the World Trade
Center could arguably be called the co-star of his film. Marsh wondered
if it was possible for 90 minutes to bring a New York audience to
a time when the Twin Towers simply reflected our hopes and captured
our imaginations. He needn’t have worried; he succeeded brilliantly.
The word “documentary” fails
to do this film justice for the film is so much more. It’s
a mesmerizing caper film; it’s an ode to a bygone era; it’s
a love story between a boy and a building. For 90 minutes this film
held its audience spellbound. We heard nary a word, no cell phones,
no whispered commentary until, of course, at its conclusion when
the theatre burst into sustained applause.
Marsh dramatically conveys the months, days
and hours leading up to Philippe Petit’s historic high-wire
walk across the Twin Towers through black-and-white recreations,
historic footage and recollections from the principal participants,
such as our own Barry Greenhouse.
Speaking of Mr. Greenhouse, he is a delight
in this film, looking suave and debonair, recounting how some three
decades earlier he helped lay the groundwork
for this historic event. One of the bigger laughs during the premiere
night came when an old photograph, circa 1974, of Mr. Greenhouse
appears on the screen. Let’s face it, the man looks positively
demonic. You are advised so as to avert the eyes of any small children
you may bring to see this film.
Marsh’s use of music and lighting,
as well as some amazing film footage of Petit’s preparations
for the WTC walk, further intensify the experience. Marsh intentionally
makes no reference to September 11 in the film, but for those of
us who worked in and near the building, footage of its construction
and those early days of wonder and promise elicit bittersweet memories.
This is a film for everyone, whether you
live in Manhattan or Kalamazoo. But if you ever worked in the Trade
Center, as so many NYSID alums did, you owe it to yourself to see
this picture. Since he was 17, Petit had a dream involving a building
he had never seen. Many of us had dreams at 17, but this is the
story of one man who fulfilled his, in spectacular fashion.
To view photos from the New York premiere,