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February 18, 2009

Perfect Completion (Man on Wire)

I finally saw Man on Wire, the Oscar-nominated documentary about French wirewalker Philip Petit's illicit crossing between the World Trade Center towers back in the early 1970s. I really ought to have seen this sooner, because my husband, John Frisbie, did the lighting for all the recreations. (And might I add those recreations look incredible?) But with a baby taking up most of my time, I only made it to the movie theater once in 2008--perhaps my lowest number since I saw my first movie (Watership Down) back when I was very, very young.

Man on Wire moved me because Petit's act was so extravagantly senseless. There was nothing utilitarian or pragmatic in his decision to string a guywire between the two tallest buildings in the world and walk back and forth. The stunt was witnessed by a crowd and filmed by one of Petit's accomplices, but even though Petit was a performer to the core, I got the sense that the joy he derived came not from the applause of the crowd, but from the act itself.

Petit's act was senseless but it was not wasteful. As a writer, I struggle under the knowledge that my work can always use more revisions. Nothing I've written has ever been complete. Yet I believe that completion is possible. It must be--otherwise how could there ever be a sonnet? Petit's act was one of those perfect works of art, appropriate and complete and true. It took him a tremendous amount of effort to achieve. I'm going to remember his face, rapt in concentration, the next time I'm tempted by "well, it's good enough."

Related Tags: Documentary, Man on Wire, Oscars