Saturday, October 07, 2006

49 Up

Just back from Michael Apted's 49 Up, the documentary revisiting a group of British children every 7 years. It's a fine film for anyone.

I'm lost in its personal resonance for me. In 1985 I was assistant director of NYC's Film Forum which presented the U.S. theatrical premiere along with the NY Film Festival. It was groundbreaking on two counts - one because it was the first time the Film Forum collaborated with the NYFF on an opening, and second, just personally, because Michael Apted was by far the most famous, commercial director I'd yet had to deal with. I have this vague sense of him tolerating my over anxious attempts to handle him properly. I really loved the film.

I loved 28 UP as most people do I think. The kids are adorable. The changes at 14, 21 and then 28, are fascinating and unpredictable. Moving. What hits me hardest? I lived in England as a child in 1962-1963. Not quite 7 but close enough for the landscape, the accents, and the school uniforms to deeply register. Anglophiles abound, but I know that year abroad left me with a deep and searing love for working class brits.

I hadn't revisited the film or series since the 28 Up premiere. Tonight we ventured out, and in a delayed kind of Eureeka moment I realized, hey I'm 49 too! Not only is this a great document revisiting these British kids' lives, it's my time period alive. Exactly.

In this latest installment, several of the subjects discuss how they feel about being in this ongoing project. Most are negative. They speak of understanding its allure to the general public, but are for the most part, personally pained. I'd love to hear more about how this has affected them. John insists the whole discussion is included only as a nod to a new fashion in documentary film - the obligatory on camera acknowledgement that the subjects are being filmed. He doesn't care. I do. I know what it's like for part of one's real life to be used in a narrative construct. I get how films can present a truth, that's nowhere near the whole truth.

Amusing how handsome and better looking most of the subjects are now. And content with their lives. Surprising too, how the majority are so lucky in love. Either they're still married to their original sweethearts, or after painful divorces, are now sublimely happy with their new partners. It's a small control group, but the film turns out to be a love letter to the institution of marriage. It's a celebration of middle aged couples in love.

Definitely worth seeing. Kudos to Michael Apted for continuing this unique and brilliant document.

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