49 Up

| November 9, 2006

In the latest 7-year-installment of Michael Apted’s ‘UP’ series, one gets some mixed feelings in catching up with these familiar faces. ’49 UP’ again inserts us into the lives of 13 people whom we first meet as adorable seven year old British school children in the year 1957, and though they are as adorable as ever in that reoccurring, now archival footage that founds this series, their latest present ‘selves’ seem as opposed to that adorability as we’ve ever seen them.
I do not at all want to detract from what is again the great feat of this series’ continuing development. On the contrary, my reaction following ’42: Forty Two Up’ is one that I still hold as a time when I was most blown away by a film’s scope–(it was my introduction to the series). What Apted achieves with these films is essentially a characterization of time’s passing. Consistent questions asked at the steady seven-year interval reveal answers that develop as different, or all too similar, from the anticipations of one’s earlier self. The over arching element that discerns what one thought they might be like, and how they actually end up–an update re-repeated at each interval–can only be the many changes that come within the seven year span of someone’s life. To see that develop, to see those hands of time change and effect and alter these 13 lives in each unique instance achieves, in essence, film’s ability to ‘capture’ the passing of a time in the most poetic and profound of ways.
Yet the success of that ‘real time captured’ seems to have itself developed into something slightly different in this latest episode–and that is the ‘real time of this film captured’. The lives of the characters within ’49 UP’ are revealed as almost oriented around the now established 7-year-interval. Indeed almost every character makes some mention of how their ‘role’ in this film has had more than some ‘slight’ effect on how there ‘lives’ have continued to develop since the last update. John’s charity school receives funding; Nick gets some ‘needed’ esteem as a professor; and while not only has the ‘capturing of life’s passing’ been effected by this series ‘capturing of life’s passing’ but, most every character seems aware of it to a degree that calls that very process of ‘capturing’ into question. Jackie flatly usurps what is to be her update from Mr. Apted himself in this latest installment–a direct result of her unhappiness with his previous ‘capturing’ of her life’s passing. Suzanne flatly asks for this to be her last ‘installment’ as to avoid future ‘effects’ that she’s sure this ‘capturing’ will have in upsetting her life. And while this film opens with Tony almost too prepared for this latest ‘update’, (like the vacation house maybe… just had to be done by the time filming was scheduled to begin for his chapter), you also get a quick glimpse of the gulf between Lynn’s actual life, and true personality in what she thinks is going to be something cut from her update, and the composed, and political, ‘part’ that she presents of herself in this episode.
Simply put, the standard ‘update’ seems to have been a bit corrupted, and while the poignancy of compressing the vast changes in these people’s recent lives into nicely ‘arched’ vignettes is still something to marvel, you begin to question how close any of those are to the actual ‘capturing’ of their lives. They know the questions by heart now, know when the next ‘UP’ instance will be, and are either interested in it for personal presentation purposes, or are simply tired of it at this point. And though I personally am not exhausted with seeing these people’s lives continue to twist and change, I would suggest that a little more awareness and admittance is given to what those lives now are and how all of this ‘capturing’ has now plays a hand in how it’s effecting the story of these people’s lives. At least, let’s admit that it’s going to be a part of their next seven years.

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