28 March 2009
The Art of the Impossible
In a previous post, I wrote that I cannot read nonfiction. That was, of course, a somewhat facetious statement: I can read it, I do read it, but I wanted to make some observations about the mental requirements for reading fiction as well as the comparative powers of persusasion nonfiction has beside fiction.
Well, now I want to add some thoughts on nonfiction film -- or at least one specific nonfiction film. This is the documentary "MAN ON WIRE." This poignant, delicate, stirring little movie proved that when nonfiction is done like art, its affect is that of art.
"Man on Wire" is the vastly improbably true story of a quixotic French tightrope walker who plotted and schemed with several equally wacky friends to invade the newly-constructed World Trade Center, rig a circus cable, and dance his way back and forth in the haze above NYC. And he did it.
There are several reasons that this film is exquitely appealing. Some are mere personal quirks of my own; others are more universal.
First, the sheer bravado, chutzpah, and talent required to pull off such a mad stunt amazes me. I'm easily wowed by quirky, random skills taken to the extreme. Plus, my body goes wild with the shakes when it mounts to even a moderate height off the ground (when not supported by an airplane!), so my awe was increased as Philippe tackled higher and higher obstacles.
Second, I am turned on by lovely French accents and Gallic turns-of-phrase. The lilting voices, the goofy expressions, all delighted me. The story was that much better told in and out of French and English thick with "frog"!
Third, the filming was fascinating. Maybe not extremely slick, but full of odd angles, intriguing shadows, and so on [I should have a limited number of adjectives I'm allowed to use per post]. There was a scene in which the plotters had to hide from a night watchman in the top of one of the WTC towers, and it was all shot in sillhouette. The music was fun, the pacing perfect. It just tickled me pink!
Fourth, as I'm sure you guessed, the whole unstated irony of a non-terroist "attack" or "invasion" on the World Trade Center. The ineptitude of security would have been funny, were it not for recent history. Although I laughed through most of the film, there was a quiet sadness underneath.
And this, of course, leads into the last charm of the movie: the poignancy of the fact that it can never be done again. Nobody, of course, would do exactly that mad crazy stunt again -- but if they so desired, it can never be done. The towers are gone.