Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"The Walk": formulaic "rooting interest" movie about the "artist" Phillippe Petit, who made the NYC World Trade Center even more famous the week that Nixon quit

The Walk” (2015) is “another” film by Robert Zemeckis about a hero with a very individualized goal.  This time, the subject is Phillippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who walked a cable between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in the early morning of August 7, 1974, two days before Richard Nixon’s resignation (Watergate is mentioned only once). 
Petit stunned the world (and the Port Authority Police) by walking back and forth about eight times, doing tricks with his balancing pole.  It does seem so improbable that he could pull this off.
Petit insists, early in the film, that he is an artist, and his work is a bit like that of a magician.  There is a “prestige”. 

The earliest scenes are shot in black-and-white Cinemascope in 1973 Paris (with splashes of color).  Petit reads about the WTC as he does little shows for circuses and parks in France (Ben Kinglsey plays the mentor Papa Rudy).  The film says it wasn’t finished then, but I recall talking the elevator tour in the summer of 1970.

In fact, I started a new job at NBC on August 12, 1974 and was in the process of moving into the City from New Jersey, at the time.  I remember Petit came up in the news later.  Petit certainly fit the idea of the “masculine personality” or “man of action” in the polarity theory of Paul Rosenfels, articulated at the Ninth Street Center which I often visited at the time.

Much of the movie deals with Petit’s recruiting others into his rather secret “plot”, long before the days of tight security.

The very end of the movie tells us about Petit’s fame and reward (despite arrest), including a lifetime pass to the WTC, and sad prelude to the eventual 9-11 catastrophe.  Did Petit make the WTC an even more appealing target?

Official Tumblr site is here   (Sony Tri-Star, but why not Columbia?)
I saw the film before a scant audience at Angelika Mosaic, mistakenly expecting a 3-D showing. In the pre-show, Angelika showed "Serenade" from DC Shorts. 


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