Thursday, December 10, 2015

On top of the world

The year was 1974 and a French wire-walker named Philippe Petit wanted to walk on a wire. Not a big deal, right? Oui. The only problem being he wanted to do that between the two tallest buildings at that time: World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. Both were at least 100 meters taller than Eiffel Tower to give you an idea how high they really were. Imagine the amount of vertigo that will induce in a human body no matter how trained it is. To make it more difficult, the act was not only dangerous but also illegal. He gathered few accomplices—that included his girlfriend—in France as well as the USA to make his crazy dream a reality. To cut a long story short, he pulled it off beautifully. One fine early morning, New Yorkers gathered on the streets below, looking up at the sky with their palms working as their visors, trying to understand what was going on. Why and how would a man walk on a rope stretched between two ugly buildings? Yes, ugly. What's little known about WTC is that New Yorkers didn't immediately fall in love with this monstrous piece of architecture. Most felt those two buildings were just bullying the sky behind by obstructing the sea view. Weren't they just two tall blocks with no external grace whatsoever? People's response to them was quite similar to what Mumbaikars felt about Ambani's Antilla. But, but, those who gathered on the street were relieved, if not ecstatic, when Philippe completed his stunt. They applauded in unison even when police arrested Philippe. Of course, his act became a global news eventually but what's worth noting here is he unwittingly played a key role in making New Yorkers love those twins. I wonder how he must have felt like when he saw them crumbling down on 9/11. After all, he was the only one who got the best view from those buildings.

NB. I wrote this blog post after watching The Walk (2015), which i feel everyone should. If not the entire movie, then at least the final half an hour. It's filled with moments that take you on his 280 feet journey across the wire. One step at a time. The climax marries art with philosophy so as to make us understand that he wasn't just defying gravity up there. There is a point when he feels absolute peace, something he admittedly never felt before or after. His initial fear turned into resolve, overlooking how close (given the distance from the ground!) he was to death. However, if you want to peel off the cinematic touches, then you should watch Man on Wire (2008) to see what drove him to this madness. If you remember, when this documentary won the Oscar, Philippe balanced the golden statue on his chin. What is not well known is he practised that move at Woody Allen's house on one of the many Oscars he had won. Yes, Philippe was THAT confident of his documentary winning the Oscar!

1 comment:

Harry said...

too inspiring.
btw, I like your recos. few days ago, I watched 'Winter Sleep' also. loved it. such a treat it was.