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Man on Wire(2008)
Oscar-winning documentary by James Marsh telling the story of what has since been described as 'the artistic crime of the century'. On August 7th 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between New York's twin towers, then the world's tallest buildings. After nearly an hour dancing on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released. Following six and a half years of dreaming of the towers, Petit spent eight months in New York City planning the execution of the coup. Aided by a team of friends and accomplices, Petit was faced with numerous extraordinary challenges: he had to find a way to bypass the WTC's security, smuggle the heavy steel cable and rigging equipment into the towers, pass the wire between the two rooftops, anchor the wire and tension it to withstand the winds and the swaying of the buildings - all without being caught...
For more about Man on Wire and the Man on Wire Blu-ray release, see Man on Wire Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 26, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau
Director: James Marsh
» See full cast & crew
Man on Wire Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 26, 2009
A fascinating documentary about a man who managed to walk on a tight-wire between the South and North towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, James Marsh's "Man on Wire" (2008) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Icon Home Entertainment.
Last week, James Marsh's Man on Wire won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The film tells the story of Philippe Petit, a French wirewalker, who walked on a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center on August 7th, 1974.
Man on Wire is structured as a collage of flashbacks where we are shown how Philippe Petit's did the unthinkable. The film opens up with short summations of the Frenchman's personal history as well as his instant fascination with the World Trade Center. We also see how the two towers are built, the men involved with the construction as well as fragments from the press coverage before and after they are officially opened for business.
Later on, we are introduced to a motley crew of characters that will eventually assist Phillipe Petit with his project. It took me awhile to understand why anyone would do for Philippe Petit what they did, but as the story progressed, I began to realize that these men were simply rebels looking for someone, or something, to lead them. In 1974, the Frenchman's desire to conquer the two towers of the World Trade Center did the trick.
Further into Man on Wire, Philippe Petit explains how he trained for his memorable performance. We also learn a great deal about the technical challenges he and his accomplices had to overcome. The documentary then shows us the endless trips Philippe Petit did between France and the United States. We are also showed how the entire crew managed to fool the security guards at the World Trade Center and, eventually, get their gear delivered.
The final act of Man on Wire captures an event that I am having a difficult time describing to you in simple words; the visuals are that unbelievable. On August 7th, 1974 Phillipe Petit walked eight times on a tight-wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center. Those who assisted the Frenchman were in tears; those who were lucky enough to see the event could not believe their eyes.
Having seen Man on Wire twice now, I can tell you that this film is an experience that is impossible to forget. It is both fascinating to behold and at the same time, at least as far as this writer is concerned, blood-curling. I don't know how one could look at what Philippe Petit did and not be moved by it. Whether you see his performance as the act of a wizard, or as the grand achievement of a madman, he remains someone that will be admired for as long as the World Trade Center is remembered.
Finally, it will be unfair if I did not reveal to you that Man on Wire also made me feel very sad. In it, you won't hear 9/11 mentioned at all, but it is impossible not to think about it when you see the construction footage in the very beginning of the film. Philippe Petit does not talk about 9/11 either. It would have been interesting to hear what he has to say, given his history with the Twin Towers, but I must assume that out of respect for those who lost their lives on that terrible September day, he chose not to mention the tragedy.
Man on Wire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, James Marsh's Man On Wire arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Icon Home Entertainment.
Generally speaking, the overwhelming amount of the footage from this documentary looks very good. Obviously, contrast and clarity here vary quite a bit depending on the source materials that have been used. For example, some of the dated black and white footage does not compare well with the rest of the original content (you would notice plenty of scratches and debris). Still, one could easily tell that what hasn't been affected by time looks very strong in 1080p. Furthermore, I would also say that the 1080p transfer does as much as possible to enhance the color-scheme of Man on Wire (one must keep in mind, however, that there are still plenty of limitations affecting this transfer). As far as the quality of the actual print is concerned, I feel comfortable announcing that Man On Fire looks very strong. Finally, I did not detect any artificial manipulations that could detract from your viewing experience. (Note: Even though this Blu-ray disc is marketed as Region-B, it is in fact Region-Free. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your Region-A PS3 or SA without a problem).
Man on Wire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with portions of French) and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (with portions of French). Even though the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers only few substantial upgrades (mostly as far as the music soundtrack is concerned) over the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, I am more than happy to see that Icon Home Entertainment have treated this documentary as they have. This being said, the dialog is mostly crystal clear (again, excluding the portions of the film where time has clearly left its mark) and very easy to follow. Furthermore, I did not detect any overly disturbing cracks, pops, or hissings with the original content to report here either. Finally, Man on Wire arrives with optional English HOH subtitles and a descriptive audio text.
Man on Wire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are a number of interesting supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc. First, there is an audio commentary courtesy of director James Marsh, producer Simon Chinn and executive producer Jonathan Hewes where the three talk about Man on Wire, how it became a reality, what it took to film it, etc. "Unseen Sydney Harbor Bridge footage" offers a view at Philippe Petit's Australian visit in 1973 (the piece also contains a recent interview with Philippe Petit and his close Australian associate who would later on play a key role in his incredible performance in New York City). Next is a long interview with Philippe Petit where he talks about his fascination with the World Trade Center, how he managed to achieve his impressive gig and how times have changed since 1974. Finally, there is a fascinating short titled "The Man Who Walked Between The Towers" narrated by actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
Man on Wire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Man on Wire is a film about a dream and the power of human spirit. As cliche as it may sound, it is simply an unforgettable story that has to be seen to be believed. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of UK-based Icon Home Entertainment, looks terrific. The supplemental features that you will find on the disc are also very interesting. I urge you to listen to the commentary by director James Marsh, producer Simon Chinn and executive producer Jonathan Hewes as well as see the interview with Philippe Petit. Very Highly Recommended.
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