Friday, July 25, 2008

Man on Wire

Last night I went to see a screening of “Man on Wire,” a documentary about Philippe Petit and his daring, unauthorized 1974 tightrope performance between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Afterwards, Dick Cavett interviewed Petit and the film’s director, James Marsh, on stage.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Petit managed to sneak into the World Trade Center with a crew of accomplices, rig a cable that stretched across the two buildings at the roofline (1350 feet in the air!) and walk across it not once, but several times. He didn’t just walk it, he performed on it, kneeling and lying down.

I was surprised at how moving Petit’s performance, and Marsh’s film, were. I expected a mischievous movie about a daring stunt, but there was also an exceptional beauty in Petit’s goal and its achievement. It was a kind of performance art that blew apart people’s notions of fear and possibility.

When Petit spoke afterwards, he said he never “tries” to do anything. He just does. You’ve got to admire that kind of certainty and direction!

(Photo: Tarpon Springs, Fla.)


  1. beautiful photo.

    Now I must find Petit's other book Traité de funambulisme of which a French critic says: "... like a Chinese archer, beyond the techniques he's perfected, Petit seeks that truth we all carry within us. A truth that goes deeper as we try to reach it, and the pursuit of which leads to the endless deepening of our life experience. (sorry, first draft translation so quite rough).

    Tight rope walking as more than metaphor, in Petit's case, yes?

    Thanks for the reference, Steve.

  2. I'm not sure what is more impressive, being able to actually walk the tightrope or being able to set it up without detection.

    Tightrope walking is like snake-handlng, it gives me the chills to think aboout it.

  3. I saw the preview for that movie last night and quickly realized I would be averting my eyes for many of the scenes, even though I know he was successful. I have never understood the daredevil mentality that prompts people to do stunts like this and even to do them artistically. I have enough trouble walking on firm earth, let alone on a wire in the stratosphere!

  4. I've heard about the film - maybe from your blog? Sounds completely marvelous.

    Great pic today. I'm glad you went on vacation, but just as glad that you're home.

  5. As far as I'm concerned seeing the possiilities in the human spirit is as important as any beauty or truth of the art itself.

    I ask my yoga teacher to do some of the complicated advanced poses every now and then not because we are going to learn them but because it broadens our sense of what the human body can do, it's good for us to see this.

    Petit's act was magnificent. I'm inspired by it.