An extraordinary documentary opens the 2008 Maine International Film Festival
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY | July 9, 2008
STEPPING OUT: Man On Wire.
James Walsh’s new documentary MAN ON WIRE opens this year’s Maine International Film Festival, which runs from July 11 to 20 in Waterville, on a soaring high. The film, which is poised to become one of the most successful documentaries in years and screens at the 900-seat Waterville Opera House on July 11, chronicles French thrill-seeker Philippe Petit’s quest to walk across a tightrope between the World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974.
|Maine International Film Festival | July 11-20 | at Railroad Square Cinema, 17 Railroad Square + Waterville Opera House, 1 Common St, Waterville | $9 per screening; $12 for special events; passes $85-200 | 207.861.8138|
Petit, a spirited, infectious protagonist, dreams of bridging the towers before they’re even complete. (In the meantime, he walks between spires of Notre Dame and stops traffic with a stunt on a bridge in Sydney, Australia.) Equal parts rebel and amateur physicist, he has to pull off his baldly illegal stunt by monitoring security in the towers, considering wind variabilities, and planning for innumerable intangible occurrences (he likens himself to a bank robber). Walsh supports the tantalizing premise with a sense of humor, visual panache, and inquisitiveness that would do Errol Morris proud; full of gorgeous photography, archival footage, and memorable characters, Man on Wire is quite literally an awesome feat.
About 100 films deep, MIFF ’08 has intriguing offerings for cineastes of all stripes. Here’s a slice of what to look out for (recommendations are in bold).
2008’s Mid-Life Achievement Award — previously bestowed on Sissy Spacek, Terrence Malick, and Lili Taylor, among others — will be given to John Turturro on July 17. A regular fixture of films by Spike Lee and the Coen Brothers, Turturro is one of the most recognizable character actors in American cinema. The festival’s selection of films featuring Turturro — his innocent, touching dramatic work in Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) and his absurd, cult-worshipped performance as bowler Jesus Quintana in the Coens’ The Big Lebowski (1999) — prove as much. They’ll also show his three directorial efforts, culminating in the awards presentation and screening of last year’s inventive musical ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES, on the 17th.
Among a deep slate of documentaries about artists and musicians, Matt Wolf’s WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL, does a fine job of arguing for the legacy of a musician relatively few people have heard of. Russell moved seamlessly between the avant-garde, disco, and folk music scenes in the East Village of New York City in the 1970s and ’80s, collaborating with Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass before his death from AIDS in 1992. Russell’s influence is apparent in today’s avant-garde pop scene (his voice is similar to Antony of Antony and the Johnsons), and Wolf’s film makes the point with dignity and restraint.
Get around to it, Dancing with himself, Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, More
- Get around to it
You would not guess, listening to his music, that Arthur Russell grew up in Oskaloosa, Iowa. In fact you might not guess that he came from anywhere.
- Dancing with himself
Arthur Russell's music does little to illuminate the mysteries and vagaries of his life. It simply tosses them aside, in pursuit of moods and rhythms few have successfully replicated, two decades later.
- Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
There’s no explaining Arthur Russell. It’s best just to listen to his music. I hope Wolf’s documentary will encourage people to do precisely that.
- Deep thoughts
It’s an unassuming feature in a weak time slot set in Farmington that deserves to steal the show this year.
Comparisons with Alexander Payne’s Election won’t fly.
- Greetings and salutations
The film, a decidedly unlikely crowd-pleaser, has had a charmed year so far. It won a Special Jury Award upon its world premiere at Austin, Texas's SXSW Film Festival, and an Audience Award at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina, becoming something of a "little documentary that could" on the festival circuit.
- Arthur Russell
Following the 2004 release of Calling Out of Context comes yet another posthumous Arthur Russell session.
- Light show
The biggest stars of this year’s Berlin Film Festival were neither actors nor directors.
- Open city
In the pioneering early-’80s days of the Toronto Film Festival, the audience actually rose before movie showings for a canned recording of “God Save the Queen.”
- Golden anniversary
Happy 50th anniversary to the San Francisco Film Festival.
- Better transformers
Maine film buffs have it tough.
, Entertainment, Jimmy Carter, James Walsh, More
, Entertainment, Jimmy Carter, James Walsh, Matt Wolf, Philippe Petit, Alan Ball, Andy Abrahams Wilson, Jeremiah Zagar, Masaki Kobayashi, Pearl Fryar, Less