63 up (michael apted, 2019)
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
This is the twenty-fourth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 24 is called "Top 250 Documentaries Week":
This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from Letterboxd's Official Top 250 Documentary Films list.
The "Up Series", quoting from Wikipedia, is a "series of documentary films follows the lives of ten males and four females in England beginning in 1964, when they were seven years old. The first film was titled Seven Up!, with later films adjusting the number in the title to match the age of the subjects at the time of filming. The documentary has had nine episodes—one every seven years—thus spanning 56 years." I first watched films from the series in 2007 ... I thought 49 Up was going to be nominated for an Oscar, and decided to watch all of the series up to that point in preparation. (It wasn't nominated, and someone pointed out since it's a TV series, perhaps it will never be nominated.) I thought the series got better as it went along. but the idea has always seemed better than the result. At that time, I wrote:
The films are, or at least were, intended as a critique of British class society, but the films are least successful when they push that point. Far too often, interviewer and director Michael Apted asks leading questions designed to show off his notions about class … just as often, the replies are unexpected, thankfully. In 49 Up, more than in any other of the films, Apted is challenged by the participants. Many of them dislike having their lives interrupted every seven years … some think Apted and the series unfairly portrays their lives. A couple have quit participating over the course of the films, including at least two spouses.... Because it’s well-made, because the participants are likeable, because over the course of 42 years we get to know them, or at least get to know their “Up” personas, for all of these reasons, the Up series seems legitimate, even classy, and I think we might see more in them than really exists.
I found 56 Up to be the best yet, but the reason was largely because these films have a cumulative power, as we get further along in knowing the participants. We root for all of them. 63 Up continues this pattern, but the truth is, I can no longer say that each one is better than the one before. I think we get more out of each episode because of that cumulative effect, which speaks to the enormous power of the project, but that doesn't mean 63 Up is best, as much as it means every seven years we look forward to the films with increased anticipation.
It is possible that 63 Up will mark the end of the series. Michael Apted, who worked on the first film and directed the rest, died in 2021. Of the 14 original kids, one has died, and a few decided at some point to quit participating, although in every case but one, they later returned. The series has a remarkable lack of voyeurism ... it is often compared to reality television, but whatever the problems the participants have had over the years, our interest grows out of sympathy more than it does of gossip.