Monday, November 12, 2007
The Great Movies: The "Up" Movies
The "Up" Movies: 7 Up, Seven Plus 7, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, and 49 Up.
Michael Apted, mostly (1964-present)
The "Up" Movies are certainly great movies, as documentary movies, but they are really in a conceptual category all their own. They are different from anything else ever made. The first of them, "7 Up," was a television documentary in which a group seven year old children were asked questions about their lives and futures. Every seven years since, the same people have been revisited and asked some of the same questions, and some new ones as well.
Although this setup certainly appeals to my enthusiasm for large scale arbitrary projects, it accomplishes something more important as well. For anyone curious about what human life is like, these movies offer the best chance available to immerse yourself in real lives that you are not personally involved in. The effect, emotionally and intellectually, is simply rivetting. In focussing on the everyday, the films and their often reluctant subjects achieve something awesome and heroic.
Plot: Children grow to adulthood and middle-age. They change, but in some ways they stay the same. Their humanity is revealed.
Visuals: Documentary footage. Indifferent, but often surprisingly memorable.
Dialogue: Spontaneous. Often funny, revealing, profound. But not always.
Prognosis: The Up films are probably not for everyone, but there's a fairly good chance that you will think they are the most meaningful films you've ever seen. You really ought to at least give them a try.