Summer a season for indie drama

Emily Wilcox

Petit means “little” in French, but high wire performer Philippe Petit has never been able to make a little statement.

When Petit was asked why he secretly strung a cable between the Twin Towers before dancing on it, he said, “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”

He was 24 in 1974 when, after six years of planning, he stepped onto the 450-pound cable he and his crew illegally rigged between the two World Trade Center buildings in New York City. He held a 55-pound balancing pole and witnesses confirmed he didn’t even hesitate.

Access to the rooftops wasn’t easy. He dressed like one of the construction workers building the towers, lied that he was a journalist with a French architecture magazine and even claimed he and his crew were installing an electrified fence on the roof.

The arresting performance got him arrested, but Petit’s high wire won him such acclaim and admiration the charges were dropped. Instead, the judge ordered Petit perform a show for the children of New York, which he did on a high wire above Central Park’s Belvedere Lake. He also earned a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers’ Observation Deck, where he penned his signature on a steel beam.

Some called Petit’s mammoth show “the artistic crime of the century.”

"Man on Wire" is the breathtaking documentary about Petit’s wild escapade high above the streets of New York and features vintage footage, interviews and recreations of the event.

It’s a must-see independent film to be shown at 4:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Aug. 15-16 at Plimoth Cinema in Plimoth Plantation’s main building. The film will also show at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18, through Wednesday, Aug. 20, and will screen twice Thursday, Aug. 21, at 4:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m.

But "Man on Wire" is only one of three masterpieces Plimoth Cinema is showcasing this summer.

"Tell No One," screening with the same time schedule as "Man on Wire" from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14, is a contemporary thriller in a league of its own. Director Guillaume Canet crafts an intense drama around the story of doctor Alex Beck, who receives an ominous e-mail eight years after the brutal murder of his wife. Based on Harlan Corben’s novel, critics Ebert and Roper gave this film two emphatic thumbs up.

“It’s the French version of 'The Fugitive' – that’s my feeling,” Plimoth Cinema co-founder Ed Russell said. 

"Brideshead Revisited" headlines Plimoth Cinema daily at 4:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. from Aug. 22 to Sept. 4. This indie film version of Evelyn Waugh’s 20th century novel depicts Charles Ryder’s enchantment with the Catholic Marchmain family and his intense and complicated relationships with its members.

Emma Thompson stars as Lady Marchmain, and even the supercilious critic Rex Reed couldn’t hold back his praise of the film. “It’s so hard to do in one film what took the TV series so long to do,” Russell said. “It’s always hard to condense a book into a film succinctly, and 'Brideshead' does that. We’re running it for two weeks because I think we’re going to see a big demand for it.”

Russell and four other indie film enthusiasts founded the non-profit Plimoth Cinema to bring independent films to Plymouth, creating Plymouth’s only movie theater.

“I’m so pleased we’ve developed this audience we have,” he said. “They come week after week. One of them jokingly said to me one Saturday night, ‘I have a life, you know.’ After every movie people will come up to us and say ‘Thank you for doing this.’ That is rewarding.”