James Marsh: Man on Wire

It is more than 30 years ago. I remember it vaguely. I remember that he did it. The tightrope walking between the the twin towers in New York in 1974. But I did not remember the story behind it. That I do now after having watched this brilliant documentary film about French Philippe Petit and his team, that made the walking – no it was, as said in the film, the dancing on the tightrope. A dance that was illegal, planned like a bank robbery, a dance that lasted only 45 minutes and was documented in photos taken by one of the most fascinating (there are several) side characters in the film, Jean-Louis Blondeau.

Photos from the performance, yes, that is what they had for the film, and of course some archive material from the building of the World Trade Centre, and from previous performances in Paris and in Sydney, and of course also some great archive from the training that proceeded the coup, as it was called. But otherwise the filmmaker – as the red thread of the narrative – builds up a suspense story in a montage that is combined with the characterisation of Petit as a true ”mauvais garcon”, a street joggler and magician, who is not able to or does not want to answer the question: Why?

It is a playful and beautifully constructed film that will for sure come to a cinema near you. Or a festival. And for sure also on a tv screen. It has this enormously precise definition of the genre it works within. Clips can be found on the sites below.




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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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