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49 UP

In 1964, a team of documentary filmmakers interviewed a demographically diverse group of seven year olds to produce 7 Up. Every seven years since, the team has revisited the original subjects who are now forty-nine years old in the series' seventh film. Michael Apted, who has directed all but the first film, returns here to ponder and probe the current family, economic and romantic statuses of his lifetime cast and what he discovers is an altogether more settled and reticent group. Wise talking London cabbie Tony is now a grandfather with a holiday house in Spain while formerly homeless Neil is now a rurally located Liberal-Democrat candidate for an upcoming council election. 49 Up offers its viewers and cast a reunion of sorts and a chance to catch up on old and new times.

Review by Joel Meares:
Both in subject and style documentaries have recently become more aggressive. It is fashionable for the motivated filmmaker to centre himself or herself in the picture, a combative war correspondent dodging the fire of graphs and factoids dooming the audience to a polluted and unstable future. Valid points are frequently made in such films, but I was relieved to sit down to Michael Apted's 49 Up and find nothing aggressive in it and ostensibly little point but the continuation of a project started many years before. Only the conceit of the series brings any urgency to this film needing to be made - hardly anything dramatic happens - and yet Apted's documentary is a fascinating work.

The Up series is intriguing because of its ordinariness. It is refreshing to see people on the screen who are neither particularly influential, political nor clutching at the dress of fame. Most are family people working the kinds of real jobs real people work having followed the life trajectory most people follow. There is great humour and poignancy in their stories. Lynn's work at the library with disabled children and her passion for it is touching; while revisiting the three toffy British public school kids of the first film provides for much mirth (admittedly at their seven year old expense). I liked the way Apted wove in footage from the previous films, jogging our memories, offering narrative progression and allowing us the odd sensation of seeing a group of people age forty-two years in fewer minutes.

Apted does not ignore the implications for his subjects of having been made data in a social and cinematic experiment. In some of 49 Up's most compelling moments he probes, and is probed in response, about the effects of the series on the lives of his subjects and its value to the audience. Jackie, a mother of three boys, brings particular tension to this line of questioning, accusing the director of manipulation and creative coldness. It is to Apted's credit that he chooses to include this exchange, replete with rather unflattering characterisations of him, virtually unedited. It is also to his credit that the interviewees are often familiar and candid, and that only a couple have jumped ship.

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49 UP (M)
(UK, 2005)

CAST: Documentary with Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Suzanne Dewey, Charles Furneaux

PRODUCER: Michael Apted, Claire Lewis

DIRECTOR: Michael Apted

CINEMATOGRAPHER: George Jesse Turner

EDITOR: Kim Horton

MUSIC: Not credited

RUNNING TIME: 136 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 3, 2006 (Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane)


VIDEO RELEASE: February 7, 2007

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