DVD Review of The Up Series
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 1/6/06


Origins   The Films   Analysis   Summary


  It is a rare synchronicity that finds me in agreement with American pop film critic Roger Ebert. Usually, he shows no real understanding of the role good writing plays in filmmaking, and routinely praises the use of clichťs, such as the tripe of Steven Spielberg and other Hollywood fare. However, when he declared The Up Series of documentary films, by Michael Apted, now out on DVD, Ďan inspired, almost noble use of the film medium, Apted penetrates to the central mystery of lifeí, I not only concur, but almost forgive him for recommending Saving Private Ryan. I said almost, now.

  It was in the late 1980s, on PBS, in America, I first became acquainted with Aptedís wonderful Up documentary film series, in which, over the course of their lives, he has followed fourteen British citizens at seven year intervals. Apted, a mainstream director of such films as Coal Minerís Daughter (1980), Gorillas In The Mist (1988), Thunderheart (1992), Nell (1994), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Enough (2002), has made The Up Series his filmic legacy. The films are dedicated to a Jesuit maxim, ĎGive me the child until he is seven and I will give you the maní, variously attributed to Francis Xavier, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and others. The film I first saw was 28 Up, released in 1985, although filmed in 1984. I was intrigued by the usage of footage from earlier films in the series contrasted with the contemporarily filmed scenes. I did not think about the films again until a decade later, when I saw 42 Up in 1999, released theatrically in America. All the films air on television in the U.K. This was Ďreality televisioní long before the term was bastardized by the faux melodramas of today, and far more insightful than the web cam voyeurism of the early Internet.




  The series started in 1964, when ITV, the independent U.K. television station, decided to air a 40 minute documentary called Seven Up, made by Granada Television (which was formed in 1956- the year all the subjects were born, and possessed a definite left wing bent), for their show World in Action. It was directed by a Canadian, Paul Almond, and brought together the fourteen children for the first time in their lives, to see what the future of Britain in 2000 would hold, claiming, Ďthe shop steward and the executive of 2000 are now seven years old.í All the kids were born in 1956 or 1957, and the program made an effort to get a cross-section of the population, yet skewed to highlight its left wing assumptions, for it was an undisguised social polemic, even though it would morph into a nonpareil sociological study. The children came from differing backgrounds. There were four rich children- three boarding school boys (blond, stuffy John Brisby, fey brunet Andrew Brackfield, and cute brunet Charles Furneaux) and a girl from a wealthy family (snobby Suzy Dewey); two boys from a childrenís home (black Simon Basterfield- although in later films billed as Symon, not Simon, and white introverted Paul Kligerman); four children from the poor working class East End of London- a boy (short, outgoing jockey wannabe Tony Walker) and three would-be lifelong girlfriends (blond ugly duckling Jackie Bassett, quiet, short Lynn Johnson, and tall pretty brunet Sue Sullivan); two middle class boys from Liverpool suburbs (outgoing, bright Neil Hughes, and average Peter Davies); and two Ďwildcardí kids, who would turn out to be the most self-fulfilled of the fourteen. The first was an upper middle class sensitive blond boy whose father abandoned him to the English boarding school system, and wanted to be a missionary when young- Bruce Balden. The last was the only one from the English countryside- Nick Hitchon, who had a bit of a glow about him from even the first film.


The Films


  7 Up is a landmark in British television, consistently voted Britainís most influential documentary of all time, as well Europeís, and while a good documentary, the truth is that its distinction is due to the subsequent filmsí collective impact, the first six which inhabit this DVD collection. The seventh film 49 Up has already aired in Britain, but not in America. That is not to say the first film, the only one not directed by Apted (he was a researcher), at about 40 minutes, is not valuable, but were it the only film made it would merely be an interesting documentary and forgotten slice of Englandís past. 7 Up has the kids at their precocious best. The three rich boys, later dubbed The Three Wise Men, by Apted, already display signs of snobbery, if not outright bigotry, and rich Suzy is certainly a bigot. Poor, short Tony seems a hooligan in the making, and shy, big-eared Bruce seems doomed to be a male wallflower. But there are surprises in store. While the rich boys remain snobs, they are not as predictable as one might think, and cute, perky Neil, at seven, is slated to go on a ride through mental illness and dementia that seems to have him on track for an early demise in his late twenties or early thirties. It should be noted this film mentions the producers brought twenty kids to the zoo, party, and playground, where they filmed, yet only fourteen were followed subsequently, while others were never given a second look. Were they interviewed, deemed boring, too middle class, mainstream (a point Apted later was to rue), or were they merely older and younger siblings and friends of the seven year olds? The political angle of the film can sometimes be overbearing, such as vapid opining on why the poor children fight among themselves, and the regimented elites do not, or asking the kids about race.

  By 7 Plus Seven, the only film to lack the Up moniker, at 52 minutes long, the kids are fourteen and several- most notably Nick, now bespectacled, and rich Suzy, willfully avoid looking at the camera. The only interesting moment Suzy has in the film is when the camera catches her hound catching and killing a hare on her estate. Adolescent self-consciousness and insecurity pervade, yet lend the film an authenticity never seen with teens on film nor tv. The boys from the childrenís home, Symon and Paul, are now gone- Paul emigrating to Australia, and becoming a shy jock, while Symon lives with his mother. He has let his hair grow longer and compels as he speaks. There is an avoidance of eye contact with the camera, but itís a defiant chip on his shoulder, not shyness. He has a seething anger underneath, yet will become politically apathetic. I much identified with this poor boyís response to travel- while the rich kids have done much jetsetting, and even middle class Neil desires to go abroad, Symonís impoverished world even affects his dreams, as all his Ďtravelsí involve staying in London- the most notable being his trip to Madame Tussaudís Wax Museum. It made me recall a thirteen or fourteen year stretch from my childhood to young adulthood in New York City where the farthest north I could afford to travel was Yankee Stadium. The rich boys, however, have differentiated. Andrew is still fey, but Charles heads down the liberal path while John is a born Tory. John and Charles clash over the purpose of the films and how to deal with strikes- John would outlaw them and set up a commission, while Charles recognizes the fascist implications of such, as well admiring the hippy ideal. Bruce opines wisdom accidentally, when he wonders the worthlessness over having learned commercial jingles from television via osmosis. The three working class girls- Jackie, Lynn (called Lindsay in only this film), and Sue- are mostly sympathetic to strikers, but Tony is in his own world- trying to become a jockey at the famed Tony Gosling stables at Epsom Downs. Even he is on the shy side, the only time thatís true in all the films, yet he seems to know himself the best, and his comments on his future are the most accurate. This universal gawkiness is relatable to all, but were this the only element of the film it would be far less compelling than even the first film. Only when we get the first juxtaposition with their earlier selves does the true power of the series emerge. The flaws of this film stem from this being the first time Apted directed and he didnít expect the resentment the kids bore toward his intrusion into their universes, nor did he avail himself of the teen tendency to talk, talk, talk.

  By 21 Up that was no problem. The kids have bloomed into young adulthood. Unfortunately this would be the last film all fourteen kids would appear together in, and is the first film to break the hour barrier, at an hour and forty minutes. Apted brought all fourteen together to screen the two earlier films. Predictably, most feel the films are entertainment, not science, and none believes they came off well- with Tony and John arguing over which of them came off as a bad guy. Paul has become a bricklaying hunk, while Symon wears a full afro and mustache and idolizes Muhammad Ali, as both return to their childrenís school. Symonís memories are the stronger of the two. We also glimpse Symonís mom- whom he lives with- is white, which makes his earlier comments on race open to subtler interpretations. Two of the three working class gals, Jackie and Lynn, are now married, while Lynn runs a bookmobile, and single Sue works for a travel agent. Nick struggles with being labeled the most successful of the group, even as he studies nuclear physics at Oxford. Suzy is a chain-smoking dilettante, very cynical of marriage- for her parents divorced during the filming of 7 Plus Seven. The rich boysí differentiation seems starker- with Andrew still fey, and the least interesting, John growing more conservative and socially aloof, yet with a certain Bill Buckley likeability. The most intelligent and interesting, Charles, looks the typical 1970s era long-haired rock-loving kid, but is making is last appearance. He seems the most open minded of the trio, and scornful of classism, as subsequent careers in journalism and documentary film bear out. Short Tony failed as a jockey and works for bookies while studying to be a London cabby, and despite his continued failures is indefatigably upbeat, just as he was as a child. Bruce is still the most introverted, as he studies math and proclaims himself a Socialist. The two middle class boys have undergone the roughest stretches, as Apted admits in the film commentary for 42 Up. Their class was the least well represented, even though itís the largest in that nation. Peter is coming to grips with his mediocrity, rooming with two college buddies, while Neil has veered off the track, become a homeless squatter in London, after failing to get into Oxford, and shows signs of mental illness, and bitterness toward his upbringing, the world, and his overestimation of himself, prefiguring his descent. The next two films, dramatically, will primarily be his story. Yet, the motto of the series holds true, save for Neil, especially concerning the rich boys, where Johnís sense of self-entitlement is staggering- he complains of unfair portrayal (although all could legitimately claim so, given only a few minutes of new material are added every seven years), then continues that since he and the other rich boys laid out their lives at seven and achieved their goals, it seems their success was pre-ordained. Amusingly, he states there is no showing of his having to work a bit to achieve. That he cannot see how ridiculous he sounds makes him the de facto villain of the films, although, to be fair, he voices sentiments of equanimity about the value all jobs have in society, although he kyboshes that sentiment by prattling on about subversives and class resentment, even as he leads a programmed and executed life.

  The most memorable of the films, to this point, is 28 Up, at 2 hours and 15 minutes the longest in the series. The longest segment in this film and series is the over twenty minutes devoted to Neilís mental breakdown- captured on camera. At 28 he is homeless and wandering Scotch lochs, living in a shitty trailer. His answers are self-pitying, wacky, and he bobs up and down as he speaks, as if trying to avoid demons, although he has stopped blaming others for his failures. He lives off of the British version of welfare, and is on the brink of insanity. His is the only life that violates the seriesí maxim. Neil was a cute, bright boy, but his angst in this film is palpable, and generated huge volumes of mail from people. Upper class Suzy has also changed, albeit positively; sheís a contented mother and wife of a lawyer named Rupert. Many of her world views are in opposition to what they were earlier. This film saw the permanent departure of Charles from the series- a disappearance Apted, on the 42 Up commentary, states mystifies him, as he would seem to be the most like Apted. Also not appearing is John. He would reappear in 35 Up, disappear in 42 Up, and reportedly surfaces again in 49 Up. Johnís disdain for the films was evident since 7 Plus Seven. He disagrees with many of the filmsí political premises, as evidenced in 21 Up when he declared working class people on assembly lines could afford to send their children to college, yet chose not to. Such a divorce from economic reality is far too common in the upper crusts of every society. Bland Andrew married a cute blond ĎYorkshire lassí named Jane, and is on cruise control in life. As for the working class girls, Sue has married, and the other two- Jackie and Lynn- are much the same, while Tony has also married. Symon- still mustachioed- married a gal named Yvonne and reproduced five times, while his old mate from the childrenís home, Paul the bricklayer, also mustachioed, went on a cross-country tour of Australia with his wife, Susan, and lives in Melbourne. Nick is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, joining Paul as an ťmigrť, and is asked if he feels he turned his back on his country. He says no, as his country was not pursuing his interests. His wife- also Jackie- is portrayed a harpy- a point Apted admits in the 42 Up commentary, as he felt their marriage would not last, but was mistaken, just as he admits he wrongly tried to prefigure Tonyís descent into crime, which never happened. Bruce and Peter are shown as teachers- Bruce unmarried, and working at Tonyís old school in Londonís East End, while Peter is married to Rachel- a woman whoís even a greater candidate for leaving him than Nickís wife was. She carps about his always being negative, and he chides the British class system. It would be Peterís last appearance in the series, for remarks about how undervalued and underpaid teachers are, and his comments on the Thatcher government, got him reviled in the press. On 42 Upís commentary, Apted admits Peterís absence pains him most of all, because in subsequent years he changed his life- divorced, remarried, and became a lawyer. Yet, unlike Charlesí and Johnís absences, Peter is not referenced in 35 Up nor 42 Up (save for the commentary), yet one feels this was at his request to Apted, who notes that he got his filmmaker friend Alan Parker (Peterís favorite director) to call Peter to attempt him to rejoin the series, but it did not work. The whole film is a transition between the films of youth and those of middle age, in temperament and style

  By 35 Up, a crisp hour and 55 minutes, the least popular entry in the series, many of their parents have died, and there is a sense they are dealing with mortality for the first time. Charles (who married) and Peter are still absent, as well as Symon (we learn in 42 Upís commentary he went through a divorce at the time, dealt with his momís death, and was feeling insecure- yet he and Peter were not even mentioned by name), but John has returned, with wife Claire, and agreed to the film because he sought help in bringing aid to Bulgaria, his motherís homeland. This self-serving aspect only reinforced his being the least well-liked of the subjects, even though he was doing good and charitable works. On 42 Upís commentary Apted states John doesnít like him and agreed to be interviewed only by Aptedís assistant. Tony openly admits infidelities on camera, by contrast, and is seen positively by the seriesí fans, which only hearkens to Johnís claims on 21 Up that he has been portrayed and perceived as a villain. Much of this is borne out by the film editing of Kim Horton and Oral Norrie Ottey, and Aptedís desire to control perceptions- such as his failed notions to portray Tony as a thug in the making, or Nickís wife as a shrew. Yet, that John does not see his boorishness and bigotry contributing to that perception amazes, and is part of the service such an enterprise illuminates. Andrew and Jane have two sons, Alexander and Timothy. Only Lynn, of the three working class gals, is still married. Sue and Jackie have divorced, although Jackie had a son out of wedlock and works as a bartender. Suzy has become well-balanced and open-minded, in contrast to her youth, while Paul chugs along in Australia, Apted even paying for him and his wife Susan to bring their kids to England, to see where Paul grew up. The two most interesting segments belong to Bruce and Neil. Bruce (who at seven wanted to be a missionary) is living in Bangladesh, on a teacher exchange program (a de facto secular missionary), and still single- although suspected of being gay, still with his lifelong blond curl on the right side of his forehead, while Neil has bottomed out, aging horribly, the worst of all. His face is pustuled and darkness pervades his eyes. He directs and acts in local theater, although still welfare-dependent. He dreams of becoming a playwright, but he has no talent and is delusional- mistaking his illnessís hypersensitivity with the true sensitivity of an artist, as well an excuse to turn to Born Again Christianity- albeit not of the noxious American sort. As with 28 Up, his appearance was the most talked about part of this film, and many doubted he would be around for the next one. Neil comments on his popularity, deluding himself into believing people reacted positively to him, rather than pityingly. To me, Neil is less heartbreaking than most feel he is, because Iíve seen dozens of Neils in the arts scenes, and tire of their constant neediness, especially knowing he refuses medical help, although he reeks decency.

  In the 42 Up commentary Apted comments on the differences between American and British audiences, with Americans always asking if the subjects are still alive, and Apted thinking Americans have a morbidity lacking in other countries, although admitting the question is not without validity. That last film in the DVD collection was an award-winning film on its American release in 1999, and is just a minute shorter than 28 Up. Charles, John, and Peter are again absent (Peter not even mentioned), but Symon returns, with a new wife, Vionetta, and look, and was, according to Aptedís commentary, the most enthusiastic of the eleven participants. He speaks of his momís death in 1990 and ruing his career choice in manual labor. Tony has moved out of the East End and into middle class suburban digs, taking cameo acting jobs, while the three working class women persist; Jackie having two more illegitimate children and suffering from arthritis after moving to Scotland, and living off her ex-mother-in-lawís graces, Sue adjusting to a divorceeís life at karaoke bars, and Lynn- the only careerist, a librarian- finding out she has too many veins in her brain, a life-threatening condition. Lynn also feels the most empathy for her fellow subjects, and their forever being linked. Paulís contented and stable life goes on in Australia, with less hair up top, but a graying Fu Manchu. His wife is a mobile hairdresser. Nick (who looks like actor John De Lancie, Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation) enjoys success in his field in America, writing a book on semi-conductors, and has a son. He returns to his family farm as itís to be sold off. Andrew, the only rich boy to stick with the series, is a profitable lawyer, who takes his family to New York City (with prominent pre-9/11 shots of the World Trade Center). Suzy is contented, and now a bereavement counselor, after- at 28- stating she took her fatherís death hard. Bruce is finally getting married, at 41, to a gal named Penelope- a year earlier than the filmís cycle, as Apted broke his seven year rule out of fondness for Bruce, and relief he finally found happiness. Sheís a teacher from his school, and, in a wise artistic move, only later in the film do we learn Neil was at his wedding, for after 28 Upís low ebb, Bruce extended a hand in friendship to Neil. While still alone, Neil has recovered equilibrium after a two decade anomy. He moved to London, and while still on welfare, is now a Liberal Democrat councilor in the London Borough of Hackney. Itís interesting that at 21 he said he might want to direct theater (he did by 35) or go into politics (he did by 42), proving even though heís the least successful of the fourteen, he has achieved prior stated goals. The film is more upbeat than 35 Up and leaves a viewer wondering what 49 Up will hold.




  Apted has unwittingly crafted, BY FAR, the most important anthropological and sociological work in the history of mankind. Not Gibbonsí Decline And Fall, not Margaret Mead, not Kinsey, not even the work of Dian Fossey (whose tale Apted told in his 1988 film Gorillas In The Mist), nor the gold records on the Pioneer spacecraft, surpasses this corpus, the only filmic longitudinal study of human development across classes still going. There has never been a document of the human experience as effective, moving, and intimate- well beyond bar graphs, statistics, and flow charts- because it is also art. This is evident from 7 Plus Seven on, with the intercutting of similarly phrased answers to show growth and differentiation. So many quirks of human nature are revealed: from the grand, such as why we make poor decisions, to the trivial, such as why many of the participants are clueless as to its value; especially Charles Furneaux, who dropped out at twenty-one, only to become a BBC producer of documentaries. John Brisby seems to use it only for his means, and Peter Davies let a single experience deter his participation. Even regulars like Nick Hitchon, Suzy Dewey, Symon Basterfield, and Andrew Brackfield, complain of the filmís intrusion (what Apted, in 42 Upís commentary, calls the worst celebrity- without power or remuneration, although he states he now pays the subjects, and shares any prize money with them). Yet, how many would kill to be in such a series? Not only for the manifest specialness it will hold in coming decades and centuries, but for selfish reasons- what the notoriety could do for you if leveraged properly, and to have your youth, and whole life forever sealed. Yet, even this has its place, for their lack of understanding how privileged they are, seeing only the minor inconvenience, rather than the psychological and sociological value of this study is fascinating. Could there be a more prescient presentation of human self-centeredness? Yet, even as the films chart the growth of individuals, the reason for the first film holds true- there is a startling stasis to the human condition. Most remained in the social boxes they had as children. The exceptions, like Bruce and Neil, only prove the general rule. Nick and Paul emigrated, but only Nickís move was by choice, while the rich kids are living the lives plotted for them, and the working class kids have stayed rooted to their pasts.

  As for the techniques in the films, their art? Apted learned the value of repetition- such as the trio of Jackie, Lynn, and Sue being seated left to right on a couch, to the point of becoming a trademark, as well the value of going in a new direction, although a little more variance would have helped. He failed when he tried to steer perceptions, but by 35 Up and 42 Up he is in control of his directorial powers. His interviewing style is a process of wearing the subjects down, so a nub of truth and spontaneity comes forth. In an interview for a Directorís Guild show on the films he said, ĎI just shut up and let them talk and donít give them artifice and am prepared to roll with the silence.í This allows the subconscious of the people to vent their frustrations, and get to those parts of themselves they might not want to deal with, but is documentary gold. Heís learned whom and how he can push, and their breaking points. Reportedly, 49 Up was filmed digitally, to be less intrusive, with fewer edits needed. Not only has the series documented change in the human condition, but that in the film industry, as the original film was a murky, grainy black and white film, poorly edited, and each subsequent film, in looks and graphics, has gotten more sophisticated. This has inadvertently heightened the feel of revealing the growth of its subjects, even as the films all begin and end with 7 Upís black and white World In Action title sequence, and the shots of them playing as announcer Douglas Keay names them, and ends with ĎGive me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man. This has been a glimpse of Britainís future,í in the stentorian tones of an Łber-serious social documentary.

  There is no denying The Up Series holds a unique place in filmic and documentary history, despite rip-off projects in other nations: America, Russia, East Germany, and South Africa (some produced by Apted). I hope this series follows its logical course till most have died, and hope Apted has made arrangements for the series to continue past his death. Born in 1941, he is fifteen years older than his subjects, but has gone from father figure in the first two films to an older contemporary. But, imagine if this and successor series do continue, and a foundation is set up just to chart representative samples of humanity across cultures and millennia, so that future historians, long removed from earth, can understand how far the species has come, and how much has remained. Imagine the value of capturing an aborning Newton or Picasso, or even a Jack the Ripper or Stalin! But, even if that never comes to fruition this lone series of films is among the most sociologically fascinating and perceptive documentary series ever made, a record of social, economic, and cultural influences on life, as well a powerful meditation on the meaning of existence. Who cannot watch these films and recall where they were the years they were filmed, or at corresponding ages of the subjects? This forces an identification with the Ďcharactersí fictive filmmakers would kill to possess. More than any other film franchise this makes best use of film to tame timeís passage to its best use. Yet, the seep of time riddles the work, as with each film, less of each personís past is shown, and like memory, perceptions change, as someone watching only a later film may be shocked if they were to watch an earlier film. Apted reckons he scraps 80% of each film when he starts again, and one can only wonder what outtakes never made each original film? Not to mention what Apted never captured in the years between each film, perhaps tragedies that dominate, then dwindle to irrelevance between opened camera apertures.

  Yet, what remains has a hypnotic effect, as repetition heightens the domino propulsion of events that bear out the Jesuit maximís truth. The extroverts and introverts as children are extroverts and introverts in middle age. Those with silver spoons have done well, while those with less struggled, even as their lives are more interesting. Yet, the success of the rich was not for anything special, but the very advantages regimentation and quality brought to their lives. Itís interesting to note the plethora of lawyers the film follows- John, Andrew, and even Peter (after he dropped out), as well as Suzyís husband. Not surprisingly, they are the least imaginative of the subjects, thoroughly homogenized by what Charles, in 21 Up, called the conveyor belt mentality of British society that spits the upper class kids through boarding schools and Oxbridge colleges. However, this is far more than the class-based polemic of its roots. The agenda the original documentary imposed on them may have been borne out, to a degree, but itís also been the bane of the series, even though cogent moments were caught on film in 1964, such as Paul and Symon- the childrenís home boys- attempting to literally build houses when let loose in the playground. How forty or so minutes of scattered quotes by a person can so intimately convey such huge portions of their character, as well fate, amazes. Most of this is due to Apted, for while everyone has a story, you need a great artist to tell it, and even when he errs in trying to foreshadow things, or tries to contrast rich Suzy with the working class girls, he never condescends to his subjects, nor his viewers. The art of selection and contrast comes into play in ways any singular film cannot match, as the intercutting forces introspection. This lends itself to irony, as well the foreshadowing implicit in the seriesí motto. Watching the films in sequence, in a short period of time, heightens these feelings, while watching them a second time, especially the earlier films, brings a sense of dťjŗ vu to these characters, as you recall things from their past (and yours) while knowing what will befall these people that their onscreen selves are clueless of. By watching all the films in a row one sees the formation of patterns that, even though none of these people are exceptional, are utterly human and relatable. Their lives twist in surprising ways at times. The result is even the most insignificant tic or twitch takes on seeming relevance. Yet, even watching a single film can easily bring you up to speed with where the people are. What the series does best is parallax not only the lives of the individuals filmed, but those of the viewer. We are forced to ask where we were, externally and internally, during the time periods each film captures, as well the corresponding life stages each film represents, and itís almost impossible not to be bound up in this pursuit. Inner character may not fundamentally change, but the seven year intervals always make you feel success could be just around the corner- for the subjects, and yourself.




  As for the DVD package, Iíve commented on some of Aptedís insightful commentary on 42 Up and would have loved to watch all six films with similar recollections from Apted and his subjects- especially Tony, Lynn, Neil, and Nick. None of the films comes with subtitles, however, and there was no cleanup done to the earlier films. One could argue this Ďrawerí feel only heightens the sense of growth and timeís passage, yet seeing the original film, then its sepia snippets in later films is an aesthetic drawback. Some other points of note in Aptedís commentary are the facts Tony is the most popular subject, Aptedís closest with Suzy, identifies most with Nick, and feels class is the spine, not the power of the series.

  With 49 Up coming out this year one realizes how much time has been logged since that first film, and guesses how many more editions are to come. I cannot wait to see 49 Up- which heralds the return of John (Peter and Charles are still in absentia), to once again watch children become peers, then elders, but also because with every film the life of the 15th participant becomes all the more interesting and central to the project- and thatís Aptedís life, and what compels him to soldier on. I also hope the DVD for 49 Up will contain more commentaries, as well as unused material in the films.

  The Up Series is one of the great works of humanity, where two of our greatest pursuits- art and science- meet, as well as being that rare synergy, where the body of films are far more than their added individual value. You come to like and respect all of these people- even the rich snobs, for the films force the viewers to question themselves and all about, and in each of the subjects, including Apted, bits of ourselves can be seen, whether itís the good stuff that the boldest of the subjects or moments contain, or the pettiness and flaws. Having recently been visited by my seven year old niece, and recalling an audio tape I made on Christmas Day, 1972, when I was seven, the films have taken on a special cogency to me. Your cogencies will be different, although just as special. So is The Up Series.


Link to 49 Up!


Links of note:


Nick Hitchon:



Neil Hughes:



John Brisby:


[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the 12/05 Hackwriters website.]

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