Monday, October 13, 2008

World Trade Center Movie

Team one enters the WTC parking lot with faked credentials. Their van carries a wooden crate filled with equipment. Two, dressed as office workers, enters the second tower carrying an architect's tube. Inside the tube are a bow and arrows.

That's how Man on Wire begins, like an action or caper movie. If you didn't know that the caper was to tightrope walk between the WTC twin towers, you'd think you were watching a terrorist assault. And there's one other moment of odd terrorist resonance in the movie: the tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, tells us how he would be willing to risk anything to achieve his dream, how the threat of death did not keep him from his driving passions, and then the movie cuts to a commercial airplane slowly twisting and diving to the ground.

When Steven Spielberg made War of the Worlds, he was criticized for exploiting the imagery of 9/11. Man on Wire does something similar, although subtler, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Excessive seriousness about tragedies fosters an unhealthy cult of suffering. By reusing and adapting the imagery of 9/11, the tragedy gets a sense of context and proportion, which is appropriate. Playfulness and creativity are preferable to sullen reverence.

I saw Man On Wire at the beautiful blue and yellow County Theater in Doylestown. Man On Wire is great, and it ends quickly, without lingering. The crowd sat silently at the end and listened attentively to Satie's 1ere Gymnopedie, playing over the first portion of the credits.

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