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Man on Wire (2008) - Plot Summary Poster

(2008)

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Summaries

  • A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century".

  • On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit, a French wire walker, juggler, and street performer days shy of his 25th birthday, spent 45 minutes walking, dancing, kneeling, and lying on a wire he and friends strung between the rooftops of the Twin Towers. Uses contemporary interviews, archival footage, and recreations to tell the story of his previous walks between towers of Notre Dame and of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, his passions and friendships, and the details of the night before the walk: getting cable into the towers, hiding from guards, and mounting the wire. It ends with observations of the profound changes the walk's success brought to Philippe and those closest to him.

  • "If they build them, I will come", paraphrases what Parisian street performer and tightrope walker Philippe Petit thought about his ultimate dream, the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Ever since he, at age seventeen, heard about the probable building of the two towers, he had an obsession with them, most specifically in they acting as the foundations for which he could tightrope walk across at roof level. This film documents the planning and not always smooth execution of the walk he did accomplish on August 7, 1974, which ended up being more than just a straight walk from tower to tower. Part of the preparation work included doing other unsanctioned, and thus considered illegal walks, between the two towers of Notre-Dame Basilica in Paris, then the two towers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Some of the many considerations included: putting together a support team that knew what it was doing, was reliable, and could hide their exploits from anyone in authority, which was not always easy as he had to rely on some people he didn't know before this endeavor; not only getting the necessary materials to the roofs of the two towers, but also how to string the cable between the two towers, again without detection; and other site specific issues such as building sway affecting the cable movement, and the extreme weather at that altitude. Some of his support team also had in the backs of their minds how overly litigious US authorities would react, especially if Petit did not survive this ordeal. Arguably the most important person in his support team was his then longtime girlfriend Annie Allix, who had to, without question, go along with him on these journeys without any discussion of what her own goals at that stage in her life may have been. The film also provides a denouement of sorts from what would arguably be the most climactic event any of the people involved would ever be a part of regardless of whatever they would do in their lives.

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  • Using actual footage from the event seamlessly mingled with new re-enactments, filmmaker James Marsh masterfully recreates high-wire daredevil Philippe Petit's 1974 stunt: performing acrobatics on a thin wire strung between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Plotting his feat like a master cat burglar, Petit enlists the help of a motley group of friends as he calculates every detail, from acquiring building access to stringing up the wire, and manages to pull off an astounding crime.

  • On August 7th 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between New York's twin towers, then the world's tallest buildings. After nearly an hour dancing on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released. Following six and a half years of dreaming of the towers, Petit spent eight months in New York City planning the execution of the coup. Aided by a team of friends and accomplices, Petit was faced with numerous extraordinary challenges: he had to find a way to bypass the WTC's security; smuggle the heavy steel cable and rigging equipment into the towers; pass the wire between the two rooftops; anchor the wire and tension it to withstand the winds and the swaying of the buildings. The rigging was done by night in complete secrecy. At 7:15 AM, Philippe took his first step on the high wire 1,350 feet above the sidewalks of Manhattan. James Marsh's documentary brings Petit's extraordinary adventure to life through the testimony of Philippe himself, and some of the co-conspirators who helped him create the unique and magnificent spectacle that became known as the artistic crime of the century.


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