Review: 'Man on Wire'

Documentary about the French wire walker who walked between the World Trade Center towers, 110 stories up, examines the heroic and flat-out crazy aspects of the feat.

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The daredevil aerialist and French performance artist Philippe Petit is a real-life comic-book action hero. As a wire walker in France, he vowed one day to walk between the World Trade Center towers, and, as all the world knows, on Aug. 7, 1974, he actually did it. For 45 minutes, suspended 110 stories high, he recrossed the chasm between the towers eight times, with no safety net or harness. He was, of course, arrested for this feat, but, as James Marsh's wonderful documentary "Man on Wire" demonstrates, he was a species of hero even to the hardened New York City cops who collared him.

By any rational gauge, Petit's WTC obsession was flat-out crazy, but Marsh takes a limpid, nonjudgmental view of it all. He also doesn't get sentimental about the towers, wisely leaving it to us to supply our own post-9/11 melancholia.

Petit, by the way, is still very much alive and spry. I saw him at a screening of the film at the Sundance Film Festival where he spoke to the audience afterwards. On his way up to the podium, he tripped. Grade: A- (Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and nudity, and drug references.)

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