MAN ON WIRE is an engaging documentary telling the true story of Philippe Petit's attempts to cross the gap between the Twin Towers on a tightrope back in the 1970s. As other commentators have mentioned, it's a sometimes gripping story that plays out like a heist film, with lots of careful planning and preparation leading up to the 'big job'. The biggest disappointment is that nobody thought to film the walk for posterity, although photos do exist and are included.The documentary consists of voice over narration, plenty of interview footage with the still-surviving members of Petit's gruop, and reenactments of the events leading up to the stunt. I'm not really a huge fan of reenactments in documentaries - I'm capable of picturing stuff for myself in my mind's eye so I find them a bit pandering - but they're done quite classily here. It's a slight story, truth be told, but the documentary retelling is done professionally which makes it engaging.
Considering that "Man on Wire" won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, I was expecting a lot from this film. Sadly, while a decent film, it certainly was no especially memorable or transcendent. It's watchable and competently made but that's really about all.This film is about a man named Petite who is insane about walking on the tightrope. One of his exploits involved walking on a cable hastily strung between the two towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but this wasn't enough. When he learned about the Twin Towers begin built in New York in the 1970s, he was determined to talk between them as well. But, Petite wasn't about to ask permission (he probably wasn't about to receive it) and with a group of friends he planned to sneak onto the property and to this stunt. Much of the film is about the planning of the walk as well as the walk itself.Overall, while a decent film, I didn't particularly like Petite--who seemed like a self-absorbed guy who used his friends. Because of this, it was hard to really care about his stunt. However, the film was well made--quite competent and well constructed. Not a film I'd rush to recommend but worth a look.By the way, surprisingly the film has a bit of nudity--just be forewarned.
Bud Cort appeared in two of my favorite (and two of the quirkiest) movies from the 1970s: "Harold and Maude" and "Brewster McCloud." He also appeared in a cameo at the tail-end of "Sweet Charity," another of my favorites. Given that little resume of movie roles, he has forever won a place in my heart, as has this movie."Harold and Maude" is a modest little masterpiece from Hal Ashby, and deserves to be viewed as more than just an eccentric little cult hit appreciated by an elite few. It's hard to think of another movie whose success relies so entirely upon its pitch-perfect tone. Ashby's film walks a tightrope between black (almost too black) comedy and sentimental (almost too sentimental) pathos, but manages to blend the two perfectly to produce something quite unlike anything else I've ever seen.Harold is a gloomy misfit with a morbid death obsession, who likes to stage his own fake suicides in order to win the attention of his dithery and oblivious mother (Vivian Pickles, in an uproarious performance). He meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), an eccentric old lady with a taste for fast driving and an unparalleled lust for life. Maude teaches Harold how to enjoy the world around him instead of letting it slowly pass him by, while Harold gives Maude someone to share her days with. It's an achingly beautiful movie, in a low-key kind of way. Ashby is the king of understatement, and everything, both the outrageous comedy and the tender, sad moments, are delivered simply and effectively. He's got great actors in a great story, and he trusts both enough to stand back and let them work their magic.Ruth Gordon gives one of my favorite film performances of all time as Maude. It would be easy to dismiss her role as easy, if it were not for those quiet moments when Maude lets her enthusiastic guard down and we get glimpses of some sadness in her life that she's made a willful decision not to let overcome her. There are moments in this movie that actually made me think differently about the world we live in. Just for an example, there's a scene when Harold and Maude are sitting by a pond, and Harold gives Maude a ring he won for her in a carnival. She clutches it to her chest, thanks him for it, and then throws it into the water. Harold at first looks outraged that she would throw his gift away. But she says, "Now I'll always know where it is," and Harold's hurt look transforms into a smile of understanding. If I could think about life the way the character of Maude does in this movie, I know I would be a happier person."Harold and Maude" is a shining gem from the 1970s, and one of those movies I just have to watch every once in a while. Along with the two leads, there's of course Pickles' off-the-wall performance, and very funny support from actors in minor roles, like Harold's therapist ("sagging buttocks") and his war-crazed uncle. Plus, there's the wonderful score comprised of Cat Stevens songs, which caps off the tone of the movie beautifully.Grade: A+
Bad Education is risky film-making at its craftiest, a tightrope of innuendo, gay sex, murder, cinema, narrative, et all. Sounds like it might be pretentious, but it isn't. Almodovar's film folds into its storytelling like its the only way to go, stylistically and consciously, as if the only way to experience this is to find out where truth blends with fiction, and reverberates back again. Is the real thing as involving and melodramatic as the truth? Almodovar- contrary to what the Village Voice critic said- wisely only hints at the rampant pedophilia on hand, all we really get is that one suggestive moment with the priest and the boy as he tumbles out and cracks his head. Everything else is implied, but with such an emphasis on what more than likely happened that all we need is suggestion- anything more would be exploitive of a much larger issue than Almodovar wants to get into.What Bad Education gets into then at its best is desire, and the paranoia surrounding desire, as well as revenge, and lustful abandon. One can find this in Hitchcock, but it's also found in the steamiest of film-noir. Appropriate then that for almost half of his screen time star Gael Garcia Bernal is in drag, practically as a femme fatale, named Zahara. Of course, she is only a fictional construct, though based on emotions and settings loosely based on true events for the character Ignacio (or is it Juan...wait, said too much, though he now wants to be called Angel), who visits his friend, Enrique, from back in Catholic school. There's a story he wants to give to his friend, soon a film deal is made, despite shady history surrounding the death of Angel's brother. Then comes the priest- no longer a priest of course- and then the story goes deeper, with what the real truth is, and while it contains the same level of heart from the characters, it's all the same melodramatic.As well as the melodrama, Almodovar loves it as lurid and classy as possible (not to mention gay, of course, which Almodovar embraces to the point where the sex scenes carry an eroticism all their own, in spite of the NC-17 usually with only just enough shown to get the idea). But it may also be one of Almodovar's most disturbing pictures, and as it grows darker and more fatalistic in its last third one knows how deep the fissure is in the crime of passion at hand. But Almodovar, save for the experimental storytelling, like paperback novel style Citizen Kane, there's not a whole lot of messing around technical-wise, which is just fine for the actors (especially Bernal) to show off their amazing dramatic skills. What he does strive for, which he nearly gets as a great film, is the sensibility of cinema, the intoxicating power of a story told through conflict and danger, crime and (lack thereof) punishment. Hence the scene where the two boys sneak into the movie-house and the 'act' that they commit. Is it as obvious as it looks, or is there a quality to what they're watching- an old movie with Sara Montiel- that has them riled up? And what about the aspect-ratio change when going between The Visit and the 'main' narrative?Almodovar's Bad Education is certainly not for the squeamish, and leaves a feeling that everything is left darker for a purpose. By the end no police have been involved, and everything unfolds as torrid love affairs gone awry. It's also appropriate then in The Visit that Zahara blackmails to send the story to Diario 16 on TV. The difference between this and a telanovela is simple: a telanovela would take this material as the pinnacle of camp and trash; Almodovar embraces it, enriches it, makes campy pulp into a strange art. One of the best Spanish films of the past several years. 041b061a72