Thursday, June 18, 2009

Man on Wire

I saw the most amazing movie last night: Man on Wire. Its not some esoteric, off-the-beaten-path pick -- it won the Oscar last year for Best Documentary. But me and the old hub finally got a chance to view it last night. Holy shit does it haunt me, in the very best sense. Watch this trailer and I bet you money you will be clicking "Watch Instantly" on Netflix tonight.

It’s about this Frenchman, Phillipe Petit, whose life’s dream was to walk on a tightrope between the Twin Towers. While waiting in the dentist’s office as a child, he read in a magazine that these great towers were going to be built and he knew that they were being built for him, so that he could walk in the clouds between them. While he waited years and years for them to be built, he undertook other high-wire feats, like walking between the towers of Notre Dame and above the Harbour Bridge in Sydney. But through it all, he was thinking about those towers and living for the day that they’d be finished. He was obsessed – you kind of have to be, if you’re going to pull something like this off.

Now, of course, he couldn’t just waltz right in to the World Trade Center with his cable coiled over his shoulder and set up shop for his death-defying trick. This kind of shenanigan is totally illegal. So he went guerrilla. He and his team conned their way into the towers with fake IDs and disguises, hiding under tarps, and then, in the middle of the night they worked like mad trying to rig everything up.

The whole thing is so fucking insane you can’t believe it. And you think he’ll never – there is no way – he couldn’t possibly pull it off. But – spoiler alert – he does.

He steps off the the roof onto a wire and he walks straight through the clouds to the other side. Eight times. And he doesn’t just walk, he kneels, and even – it will give you goose bumps –lays flat on his back, right there, in the air, one hundred and ten stories up, so high that the people on the street can hardly even make him out.

I can not stop thinking about it.

I think what it comes down to is, that’s exactly how I want to remember the Twin Towers. Beacons of hope. The impossible made real, for all of us.

The funniest part is that after he’s done it, all the Americans want to know, “why?” and he, French to the core, just laughs it off. It is an outrageous question. Why did Van Gogh paint Starry Night? Why did Joyce write Ulysses? Why did we build those towers? It’s the kind of moment where I think, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”