twinning

He said, What a beautiful way to die… On top of the world! And his lover, watching, said, He was walking on a cloud. I couldn’t resist it, he said after he’d explained that his obsession with the thrill of stepping out on to the wire is knowing, as he put it, that Death is very close. Each step a step further into life and yet each step a step further to death. The paradox of the tight-rope walker who is more alive than many of us may ever be precisely because he is prepared to step into death. He put it perfectly when he offered us his own approach: Live life on the edge… each day should be like an act of rebellion… each day you should live your life on a tight-rope. What better advice could you ask for? And as the film rolled on it became clear to me that the words Philippe Petit chose to explain his approach to life and his fascination with the towers might have tripped from the tongue of one of the men who flew into them 25 years after he walked between them. The plotting and planning from far away for months or years (a point that is disputed by Petit’s former friend and the man without whom he could not have succeeded in his ambition, Jean-Louis Blondeau), training for hours every day in order to ensure that Blondeau could fire the arrow and Petit could walk the wire in high winds, and the whole team working out the plot to fake the IDs in order to enter the towers as workers. The similarities with 9/11 were oozing from each frame. It’s a pity that reviews of the film, like these here and here and here, do not mention this. Sure, they talk about ‘the elephant in the room’ in so far as they think that it was odd to have a film made post 9/11 that didn’t mention 9/11. But they don’t dare make the comparison between Petit and Blondeau and the hi-jackers who flew the planes into the towers. Petit, an artist, seemed inspired by the idea that his ambition was a bit ‘Like a bank robbery’. Indeed. And a little bit like 9/11. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the pilots of the planes had read about Petit’s tight-rope walk as part of their research even if it was the unofficial research they did at home late at night, alone, thinking and considering what they were about to do. The dream of stepping into death, of creating something so extraordinary that it shares the qualities of an extraordinary work of art. Except that it’s about killing. The need to shake the world as hard as you can to make it see what you see, to make it feel what you feel, to bring it to its senses. I’m sure there are people out there like you and perhaps you and surely you who could suggest where I go to read about the overlap of art and terrorism. (That of course written with the critical reminder that terrorism is the poor man’s war: no more, no less. Or is it the poor man’s art?)

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