Sure, they both contagiously convey the joy and exhilaration that can result from pushing one’s physical limits through discipline and hopeful perseverance.
But, on this date, what makes them an apt double feature is their shared exploration of the idea of place.
Both deeply reference the symbolic layer that can overlay places and the cultural and architectural edifices with which they are entwined. And both recognize that these symbolic valences – inspirations, disappointments, provocations – exist on a plane that is separate, and often divergent, from that of the places to which they are attached.
In “Breaking Away,” the place-as-symbol is Italy, conceived of by the film’s protagonist as the wellspring of happiness, grace, and good sportsmanship.
In “Man on Wire,” the place-as-symbol is the World Trade Center. For the documentary’s subject, Philippe Petit, it is a testament to the beautiful audacity of man’s endeavors. The film sticks with Petit’s interpretation, but leaves room for us to superimpose over it the unaddressed alternate symbolism that the site has accrued.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “Andrea_Nguyen” and “holytoastr” at Flickr)