35 Up VHS
35 Up continues what surely must be the longest-running sociological documentary in history. It's also extraordinary and engrossing filmmaking on the part of its creator, Michael Apted. In 1963, Apted served as assistant director on the first installment of the British television-funded project, Seven Up, which asked a cross-section of English schoolkids about their outlook on life, and dreams and hopes for the future. Apted vowed afterward that he'd visit the same individuals every seven years and continue the project. Up to this point, only three have found the self-assessment project too painful or tedious to continue (though, numerous subjects voice their displeasure during this film, raising complex moral questions about its voyeuristic drive). The first four installments were compiled into a theatrical release, 28 Up, so that the jarring twists and turns experienced by all of the characters appeared more obvious and made for compelling viewing. Since, now, only seven years have passed, life's changes here are far subtler. What eventually emerges is an overwhelming recognition that youth is dimming, replaced, in the majority of cases, by routine. 35 Up is a much more somber and, at times, more melancholy study. Many speak, disillusioned, about regret and lost dreams, while a few seem content at best, thankful that they achieved some of their original goals. Family problems, like coping with the deaths of parents or raising children, now replace questions and concerns about career direction that dominated much of the earlier entries. Apted plans to continue his poignant work about the passage of time around the millennium. --Dave McCoy
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This film is from the middle of that journey. And while it can be enjoyed in a vacuum, the true power of the piece is watching these people through the arc of their whole lives. Watching one piece out of that context can't have quite the same power. This is a case where the sum is greater than the parts, even if the parts are all pretty terrific.
In terms of the series as a whole (which I strongly suggest you seek out) - while I could quibble, wishing for a bit more depth here and there (especially with the women, where there's a bit too much emphasis on love and marriage at the expense of all else), it's really an astounding, moving, frightening and uplifting document. There's no way to watch this remarkable series of films without reflecting deeply on one's own life, and how you have changed (and stayed the same) over your own lifetime.
While Michael Aped deserves every bit of credit he's received for this amazing piece of cultural anthropology, it's important to note that the first film, 7 Up,was actually directed by Paul Almond, and Apted was a that point a researcher for the project.
The Up Series continues "56 Up" (2012 Granada UK) is the latest episode in the series and was aired in the UK two days ago on May 14, 2012. Home video DVD's are not yet available for "56 Up" (2012 Granada 2012) from Amazon.Com. It seems there is a delay from the time the newest episode is first aired/ released in the UK and when the USA sees and may purchase it.)
The Up Series (7 Up, Seven Plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up and most recently in 2012, 56 Up) is one of the most interesting, remarkable social documentaries ever presented. I screen all episodes every year, and each time, I see new things, learn more.
For me, the two most remarkable and worthy persons profiled are Neil Hughes and Bruce Balden, neither married or materially "successful" by the 1991 "35 Up" episode, both badgered about that on camera by the off camera interviewer, both stoic and dignified in the face of the negative evaluation the interviewer provides.
Neither man, Hughes or Balden, led conventional, predictable, profitable, "safe" lives. Both opted for exploration, adventure, and service to and comradeship with socially unprestigious groups and persons.
Both took enormous chances, and must be accounted brave, noble men for that alone. They didn't "play it safe." Both exude an intelligence and a willingness to discuss difficult questions and issues in detail on camera, and neither attack the show they appear on, the thoughtless, implicitly insulting interviewer, or the show's and interviewer's obvious prejudices and agenda for the show itself as a piece of social and political propaganda.
Balden and Hughes use the riveting show as a platform to describe their own lives, ideals, and activities in pursuit of those ideals, activities not supported by outside big money or generous support from family, government, or other sources.
We learn more about the world at the times the episodes are presented (every 7 years starting in 1963.....the most recent one in 2004) from observing and listening to the words and ideas of Bruce Balden and Neil Hughes by far than is true of the other children and adults presented, none of whom departed from the settings where they first appeared at age 7 in 1963.
It's an interesting show, and less spectacular careers and worlds of the children/ adults who traveled different, more predictable and conventional paths than Bruce Balden and Neil Hughes are worth noting and following.
This show began in the middle 1960's as a hatchet job attacking upper class people and decrying poverty in lower social classes, clearly had an agenda supporting the liberal, socialist values and ideals popular and aggressive in the 1960's.
The times changed, but the show has gone on, and it's value is enormous.
Written by Tex Allen, SAG-AFTRA movie actor
Some have divorced. Some have still not married. Symon, who seemed so stable and good-natured in "28 Up," is nowhere to be seen, although he will turn up again in "42 Up." John, one of the upper-class toffs who came off so amusingly haughty at 7, comes back into the game and reveals a side we had not guessed before (although he speaks of the "bitter pellet of poison" the individuals in this series have to take every seven years).
Neil, the homeless (and obviously mentally unstable) man in "28 Up" who was so articulate about the stakes even though he couldn't seem to hold it together enough to sustain a job, apparently came across as some sort of "guru of free thought" and reports getting contacts from all sorts of people who wanted him to give them the answer. He performs in amateur theatricals and manages a semblance of stability while remaining on welfare.
Director Apted quietly poses questions from off-camera, sometimes pushes his "friend-subjects" a little, and they bravely continue to reveal themselves to us, to the world ... to the infinite future. One both envies them for having such a record in hand, and thanks one's stars that no one has turned such bright lights on our lives.
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