I'd been wanting to see the documentary Man on Wire ever since it was featured on The Very Short List some weeks ago. Foreseeing friends' skepticism of a story about an eccentric, tight-rope-walking Frenchman, I found myself seated alone last week in the great cavernous basement of Sunshine Cinema.
Philippe Petit, the subject and narrator of the film, wends his way through his own history as a rope-walker who had the foresight to film much of the machinations behind his ultimate walk 1350 ft. in the air between the World Trade Center towers. Throughout the movie, 59-year-old Petit talks in present-day about his steel-trap memories of the heist he and his friends pulled off back in 1974, while sharing time with his own home videos of the feat. It's one of the most well done documentary-cum-feature films I've ever seen.
A 17-year-old Petit was sitting in the reception room of his local dentist, rifling through the waiting room's offerings of reading material. He came across a tabloid's expose on the unbuilt Towers. He decided, then and there, that it was his ... ahem ... "calling." -- It sounds silly to think of it that way, but we all must hand it to the guy - set your mind to something (crazy) and that you will achieve. My favorite part of the whole MoW endeavor might've been the experience.
I saw it alone - which, for me, is almost as novel as saying I put one leg before another and walked upright. But! I saw it at Sunshine Cinemas -- it's like a little Nirvana for Grice. It's one of my favorite theaters, always reminding me of my first days in New York in 2001, when I'd sit in Washington Sq. Park hoping some NYU kid would come talk to me; when that didn't happen (such naivete) , I'd stroll over to Sunshine or the Angelika or Village East Cinema and watch whatever little-known film was on the docket. It was in those days that I discovered some of my favorites -- life wasn't the same after Old Boy (so twisted!), La Mala Educacion (so vile!) and so many, many more -- as well as my ability to ignore sympathetic looks when I enter the theater alone, or mention that I did to a friend. MoW reminds me that those discoveries won't diminish in value.