Friday, September 12, 2008

Week of September 12 to September 18 -- Phil Mann

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

MAN ON WIRE takes your breath away. The story of Philippe Petit’s historic walk between the World Trade Center twin towers, it’s a documentary film but executed with a polished blend of actual footage, restaged events and interviews to keep you enthralled.

You know where the story is going, of course. Petit did it and he’s still around to tell the tale, living in Woodstock, New York. The walk itself would have been a feat enough, but the movie unspools the equally triumphant conquest of the towers security system to tautly fix 450 pounds of main wire and four associated guy wires spanning the 200 feet between the towers, all the while worrying about wind or fog which might prevent or obscure the spectacle. By the time Petit stepped out into space, a quarter mile in the air, he and a ragtag team of recruits had been working for months, capping their efforts with an all-night session feverishly lugging, hauling and rigging. Yet there he is when day breaks, not merely walking but kneeling, laying down, getting up, and dashing away from the police for almost an hour.

Topping not only the wire but the film itself is Petit, an endlessly charming scamp with a pitch perfect Gallic accent, never bragging, only telling us more or less that he did it because it seemed like something he wanted to do. At a time when Jackasses are making foolhardy acts foolish, it’s inspiring to see that such acts may also be artistic triumphs that elevate the human spirit.

BOTTLE SHOCK is, in a way, the geographic flip of Man on Wire. If Petit was a Frenchman who conquered an American icon (the skyscraper), the heroes of Bottle Shock are Americans, with the help of a Brit, who conquered the ultimate French icon, wine. Though not a documentary, it is based on a true story, when an upstart California winery bested the French in a blind tasting and put America on the world’s wine map. Don’t take it too seriously, though. This is a comedy. One fact I learned from researching this movie is that the French drink a lot of wine on movie sets, while American insurers only allow at most grape juice on ours. So we haven’t quite caught up.

On another topic, you probably know that the Tropic was closed last Sunday through Tuesday in response to the mandatory evacuation of residents. There’s a lot of debate about the appropriate policy. Is it the duty of the theater to fall in line with an evacuation order and not encourage people to stay by offering them entertainment? Or should it try to keep the show going until the power fails (or flood waters reach the screens)? Or some middle ground? I’d be happy to hear any thoughts on this, and will pass them on. [from Key West, the Newspaper -]

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