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.

1 comment:

Rosie Perera said...

Beautiful post, excessive adjectives notwithstanding. I've been wanting to see that film, and you've made me want to even more. I had not though about the irony of the non-terrorist "attack" on the WTC, and the poignancy of the fact that it can never be done again. Made me a bit sad. I'm glad I had a chance to go up to the top of the WTC while I still could, years ago.

Incidentally, I read recently that the word "Freedom" is being dropped from official name of the new tower replacing the WTC, and it will be called by its address, "One World Trade Center," as it's easier and perhaps more business-like for them to lease space in a tower named thusly than one with patriotic connections. I always thought the name "Freedom Tower" was kind of hokey anyway, as the idea arose during that brief period when the US was going "freedom crazy" over everything -- renaming "French fries" to "freedom fries," etc. But as some have pointed out, regardless of what the official name of it is, people are likely going to call it the "Freedom Tower" anyway.

Just like nobody is going to call the Sears Tower in Chicago by its new name, "Willis Tower" (named after its new occupants, Willis Group Holdings). People will still call it the Sears Tower forever, or, given its shape, they'll likely call it "the Willie" for short. ;-)