Director of the Up series, other documentaries, and fictional movies such as Coal Miner's Daughter and Gorillas in the Mist.
Seven Up (1963) -- Directed with Paul Almond. This isn't even a movie, but a thirty-minute episode of the TV show The World In Action, but what it is and especially what it went on to become is pretty remarkable. The premise of this episode was to show different kids from different social classes and give a glimpse of their futures, assuming that the ways they're being brought up now will determine what happens to them. It might sound like a typical thing to do, but what's really cool about this is that we do get to find out what happens to them in the future, since Michael Apted catches up with most of them every seven years, well into adulthood. The other great thing about the show are the children themselves. Kids do say the darnedest things, and these say the best. You'll probably find yourself quoting them. A nice little gem. (See below for the sequel, Seven Plus Seven).
Seven Plus Seven (1970) -- The first one had cuteness going for it, but this one is probably even better because the children (at fourteen) are more articulate about their lives. The transition between childhood and adulthood is shown nicely here, with everyone primarily trying to act grown-up. Flashbacks to the previous Seven Up enhance the movie and remind us of who's who. The most interesting people are the little rich turd and the clever country boy. (See above for the predecessor, Seven Up. See below for the sequel, 21 Up.)
21 Up (1977) -- By the time they hit 21, they've become a little more smart about what to say and not say, and so the interviews are a little more guarded and over-defensive, with everyone insisting that they're happy. That makes this installment a little less interesting than the childhood honesty of the first two, but still very interesting to see how everyone has turned out as young adults, especially the chain-smoking Susan, the confessions of Bruce (he's the most expressive), and our first glimpse of the bizarre transformation of Neil. (See above for the predecessor, Seven Plus Seven. See below for the sequel, 28 Up.)
28 Up (1984) -- By the time they've reached 28, most of the interviewees are settled into married life with children, or have some other sort of stability than family. That makes this chapter seemingly the conclusion to the stories, with "and so on..." tacked at the end, and it would be a nice place to stop if Apted had wanted to. Of course, life does go on, and it does change no matter how settled it appears at the moment (and of course we already know how guarded everyone's become; they're especially skilled at presenting their lives as ideal by this point), we learn in later installments that things aren't as great as they seem. The exception to the stability is Neil, who is now homeless. His story could be a movie of its own: indeed we wish we had more information about his life to see what happened to him from the bright-eyed seven-year-old to now. Neil is also the strongest exception to the "give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" premise of the original. (See above for the predecessor, 21 Up. See below for the sequel, 35 Up.)
35 Up (1992) -- A little more of the same here. The new thing seems to be the death of parents. At this point, the documentaries are interesting in that they are glimpses into adult lives of people we sort of "grew up with" (in a different sense than we're used to) and even more interestingly as glimpses into the lives of very ordinary people. We see a lot of reality shows today, but few of them chronicle regular folks talking about regular things like marriage, children, life expectations, etc. That makes this series different (and better) than the "reality" we're used to from entertainment. (See above for the predecessor, 28 Up. See below for the sequel, 42 Up.)
Nell (1994) -- Another movie about a person who talks funny, but this time the funny talk is so entertaining that it doesn't matter. Years later and we're still saying "T'ee in 'e win'" and "Chickapeah." A sweet movie that succeeds in spite of itself.
42 Up (1998) -- Still a little repetitive, but still equally interesting. People are beginning to get divorced at this point, and Neil is doing a little better. (See above for the predecessor, 35 Up. See below for the sequel, 49 Up.)
49 Up (2005) -- Catching us up by repeating clips of previous movies have always been a staple in these movies, but with this one, the edits were done a bit more successfully than in the last three, where the overwhelming volume of footage left the movies feeling a little "bloated." With this one, the edits are quick and the stories keep moving; Apted doesn't rely so much on the footage of them as children to give the movie punch, since -- at 49 -- the adults seem to be saying more interesting things themselves. Many are even more critical than usual of the ongoing film itself, offering the audience an odd meta sensation. Although every film in the series has been fantastic, this one feels less like a chore and more sure of itself and its place in the world as a remarkable document.
Copyright (c) Jun 2005 - Nov 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies