Sunday, April 27, 2008

New All-time Favorite Film

This weekend ended so nicely, with a last-minute mad dash to see "Man on Wire" (a Tribeca Film Festival offering) in the East Village. I had a voucher (8 actually, thanks to a kind colleague) but still had to wait in the "Rush Tickets" line (what an odd name, since all it means is, like, "stand by," and... wait -- after getting there 45 minutes early).

I knew the film was a relatively short feature documentary about Philippe Petit, the high wire artist, who I knew of mainly because I once met a woman whom I remember to have been a girlfriend of his, through my lost-lost friend Janine. (And you can't call me a name-dropper since I don't remember her name, though it might have been Sabine. I can't help it; I just love the serendipitous if meaningless magic of those six degrees...) So anyway, I felt I had a tenuous connection -- but more than that, this film is about Philippe walking -- in mid-air -- between the two World Trade Center towers, in 1974.

I waited in line listening to Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf on my iPod, with plenty of time, I feared, to start feeling sorry for myself again. But then a man behind me asked if he was in the right line. He was interesting-looking, if a tad affectless. After a few more questions and answers a friend of his arrived, a striking young Indian (possibly) fellow. We chatted about movies and the nutty TFF rules, regulations and experiences, as well museums. A really nice diversion. So I gave each of them a voucher (I couldn't possibly use them all).
We had to enter separately, as they counted off in tens and I was number 10.

But the film! I laughed, I cried and was moved beyond my expectations. I think the filmmaker, James Marsh, did an amazing job of seamlessly melding old footage, interviews, and recreated moments of pure exhilaration. The TFF's quirky characterizations for its movies this go-round were actually spot on here: "Elegant." "Iconic." "Inspirational." "Irreverent." "Playful." "Transgressive." Visceral." Check, check, check, check, check.

Just imagine, looking up from the street and seeing a person, clad in black, outlined in miniature against the sky, seeming to walking on thin air. Incredible.

As I was one of the last ones in, I had to sit in the very front row, in the middle. While that made the movie pretty off-kilter (and made these wonderful French people look short and squat) when the lights came up the MC introduced the British director (wow) and... Philippe Petit! About eight feet from me!

The audience rose as one when Philippe appeared and the standing ovation lasted forever. Philippe, as funny and smart and real as in the film, answering a few pretty good audience questions, looks just like my brother, except with a French twist.

Philippe Petit will make another appearance, next week in Washington Square Park. He doesn't know how long he'll be performing, since, as he said with a grin, the police usually arrest him before he does anything really crazy. I think you know where I'll be next Saturday... hoping (and expect) to see my two new friends there, as well.

Oh, and can I just say how much I love the Web, which connects me when I feel so unconnected. Can't even remember how I came upon Michael Sporn Animation. Oh, right, Wikipedia) and this page on his blog in which he talks about his own (animated) "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers ." And my connection to this extraordinarily talented fellow is that nearly every day I walk past his basement-level studio on Bedford Street and note his hand-scripted sign and always read it as "Michael's Porn Animation." Sorry, dude. Much of his artistic works are renditions of beloved children's stories, including "The Little Engine That Could" and "Jabberwocky."


Michael Sporn said...


I'm Michael Sporn, and I appreciate your comments on Man On A Wire, which I haven't yet seen but look forward to, and my film, The Man Who Walked Between The Towers. Thanks also for the mention of my blog which has many other posts about the film and my website which has a page devoted entirely to this film.

And feel free to stop in next time you're passing.

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