Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Poet who beat the Twin Towers

So yesterday, when we bailed on going to the National Book Festival in D.C., we thought of many things to do instead; weather was the factor. How about a movie? Well, nothing really was out, so how about checking the one of two theaters in town that plays the more obscure stuff. At the Westhampton, we see this:

Man on Wire

This is a film every person effected by 9-11 should see.

Yeah, we have all heard about Phillipe Petit wire walking the Twin Towers in 1974 or seen the story in the back of our minds, but this film symbolically "fixes" things. Any anxiousness at the thought of being one of those people in the World Trade Center that terrible day in September is washed over with this film.

Using a combination of interviews, re-enactments and vintage footage, the film is all about how this young French poet and his crew of pranksters plot to wire walk the WTC. The buildings were barely even finished. As you see footage of it being built from a hole in lower Manhattan, you can't help feel the hole that was LEFT after the attacks. That moment, like so many others with this film, creates this weird paradox in your head. Watching Petit in the film is like watching an ocean wave. His movements, his artistic interpretations of the events that he has probably told time and again lose no impact on the viewer. Here were a bunch of artists planning to get fake IDs, ship equipment clandestinely into the building, visit the towers and case the place time and time again, not to crash planes into the buildings, but something far more creative. To string a two inch thick metal wire atop the two buildings for Petit to walk across!


So here is the thing, despite the bombers killing thousands of people in 2001 and leveling the buildings as an act of symbolism against the west, they weren't the first to "beat" the Towers.

Petit had done it decades earlier.

Symbolically speaking, here were these huge intrusive buildings, representing the tallest, biggest things on the earth, the apex of modern man being reduced by a balancing performer, this "poet" of the wire who merely danced above it for 45 minutes, laughing with the seagulls and grinning at the police officers waiting to arrest him when he was finished.

Go see this movie. It has a very therapeutic effect. It's funny, intense and has a kind of emotional charge that means more than any religious or patriotic fervor could hope to induce. In a lot of ways it's what we need in this world of hate, murder and despair; artists. Whether it be painters, poets, musicians --it doesn't matter-- because the artist wins every time in the end.

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