- Choke (Clark Gregg, USA, 2008)
- Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin, France/UK, 2000)
- Rois et reine (Kings & Queen, Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2004)
- Man on Wire (James Marsh, UK/USA, 2008)
Esther Kahn and Kings & Queen
I feel inadequate commenting on these remarkable films, the first of a three-week Arnaud Desplechin season at Melbourne Cinémathèque. Desplechin's style is certainly idiosyncratic and, while I found them (especially Esther Kahn) very moving, I think I was perhaps too tired to appreciate, absorb, analyse and understand them as much as they deserve. I'm hoping I'll formulate more of a considered opinion after this week's screenings of La Sentinelle and Playing "In The Company of Men".
Man on Wire
I'm not big on documentaries. Generally, I find they're a medium that's best suited for the small screen, though there are exceptions (Waltz With Bashir is a recent example, and I think Errol Morris' aesthetics are a big screen must. Seeing Philippe Petit, the subject of James Marsh's latest film, Man on Wire, on Denton's Enough Rope on Monday, and hearing good things about the film, I decided to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed.
James Marsh is a director I admire immensely. His previous film The King (with Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, Paul Dano and Laura Harring) is a gutsy effort one of my favourite films of 2006. This documentary has not just an excellent subject, but is told by an excellent story-teller. Petit himself collaborated closely with Marsh, and he too has a strong sense of how to tell a story.
There are a number of other reasons that this film works so well: Petit is an entertainer, a showman. He had a vision of what he wanted to achieve and he made and kept a record of the planning of those achievements (such as the walking the wire between the towers of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the Harbour Bridge in Sydney and finally, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York). His sense of rebellion, of doing the outrageous was so overwhelming that his planning for the WTC towers took on the magnitude and sense of a bank heist.
The film is thrilling right from the start. The way the story unfolds, we feel we are privy to the plans as co-conspirators to what the film calls "the artistic crime of the century". It's not a bad description. Music is used to good effect, adding to ambience and supporting the story-telling as it should.
Marsh has assembled most of Petit's co-conspirators and their vivid and emotional recollections, even after all these years have passed, is particularly moving. There is a sense at the end of the film, that Petit's friends felt betrayed or used by Petit. This is touched upon but not explored.
Finally, the fact that the Twin Towers are no longer there, and the manner of their departure (which is itself somewhat controversial) adds a poignancy to the film. This is a film that really should be seen on the big screen. I loved it, and so did the missus and kid (yes, it's a good film to take kids to).