49 Up

The thing that nobody seems willing to say is that the biographical sketches that emerge from Michael Apted’s ongoing experiment in “longitudinal” documentary filmmaking are actually pretty depressing. The reason for this isn’t that life sucks and we all get it in the end, but it’s the format: even the most generous collaborator (Tony was at the press conference, and lovin’ every minute) will only put so much of his life into the movie. So instead of getting the good stuff, we’re stuck with endless variations of the outlines: summaries of jobs, marriages, divorces, kids, grandkids, rinse, repeat. That’s interesting as far as it goes (the odd ones out, like hobo-turned-politician Neal, are the most compelling), but nobody really shares what’s most fascinating about them. By the time we get a sense of all that they’re not telling us, we’re off to catch up with the next person. As a result, they feel strangely less real than most fictional characters, which are usually realized much more fully. (Bonus thought: seems that “reality” TV has learned to deal with some of these problems, but they do it through fictional means?)

49 Up. Michael Apted, 2005. ***

[tags]3 stars, film, michael apted, documentary, biography, england[/tags]