Friday, January 3, 2014

365 Movies A Year - January 1, 2013

Pieces in 365 MOVIES A YEAR will be briefer and more loosely written. Sorry!

Thoughts on 28 Up -- Michael Apted's 1984 documentary that I watched on Netflix Instant Streaming on the first of January, 2013:

My year, or more accurately, this series, gets off to an unusual start, in that the inaugural entry in the series comes midway through another personal project that I'm not writing about.

Lately, I've been binging on the films in Michael Apted's Up series of documentaries. If you're unfamiliar with this remarkable series of films, I hope this summary should suffice: 

In 1964, a team of British filmmakers (including, as a young researcher, Michael Apted) selected a group of fourteen children, all aged seven, to study for a continuing series of documentaries. The children came from different strata of the British class systems --  rich and poor, black and white, from elite preparatory schools to inner-city charity homes -- and were interviewed, asked about their lives, their families, their schooling, their interests, and their thoughts on life. Ever since then, every seven years, Michael Apted (now taking on the mantle of director) returns to these fourteen subjects and films them going about their lives, interviewing them, comparing and contrasting them with their fellow documentary subjects.

It's inherently compelling. But there are also inherent problems -- or maybe just "problems" -- that arise that become more clear in 28 Up, the fourth film in the series.

For one thing, adults with jobs and families, who, in some instances live thousands of miles away from England, are much harder to wrangle together and get to participate in yet another documentary. And 28 Up suffers a bit from the absence of a few participants and the inability (or unwillingness) of the filmmakers to get some of the subjects together for the same interview. I, for one, would love to have seen the three upper-class boys John, Charles, and Andrew together in the same interview again, particularly since one of the highlights of the previous three documentaries was watching Charles and John seemingly move further and further apart, culturally, ideologically, and personally. 

Regardless, there is enough drama and insight in 28 Up -- particularly in watching the heartbreaking segment involving Neil, or getting the chance to see the marvelously charming Tony again -- to make it a riveting viewing experience. 

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