Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Night High Wire Act

"Man on Wire," directed by James Marsh, last night received an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Below is a "rerun" of a blog post I published Feb 3. Enjoy ...

It was a nice relaxing walk - a quarter mile in the air over New York City.

Last night, I watched "Man on Wire," a 2008 documentary about Philippe Petit's improbable 1974 tightrope walk back and forth between the two World Trade Center towers.

Phillippe Petit had already accomplished similar (and illegal) feats between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

As the documentary makes clear, pulling off the World Trade Center caper was equivalent to plotting and executing a bank heist. Months of planning, reconnaissance, and rehearsal went into the operation. On numerous occasions, Petit and his accomplices snuck into the towers as they were under construction. Sometimes in the dead of night. Other times during the day, posing as contractors or journalists.

Then, one muggy August night, two separate teams hauled up their equipment, eluded security guards, and strung their wire and its moorings across the chasm.

The operation was not exactly flawless. Petit and his accomplices were amateurs performing the job of professional criminals, and things went wrong. Several times, the mission came close to being aborted. Then, just about dawn - with barely a second to spare - the team on the other tower radioed that they had secured the wire.

It was now or never. Petit stepped out onto the wire - and suddenly he was in his element.

During the bank heist phase of the film, the main soundtrack theme was Greig's "Hall of the Mountain King." Now, suddenly it was the dreamy piano music of Satie's "Trois Gymnopedies."

Get this - now that Petit was back to doing what he was good at doing, he could RELAX. The hard part was over. Walking - make that dancing - a tightrope 104 stories above Manhattan traffic, piece of cake.

The brain is funny that way.

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