“63 Up” and the Child in All of Us

The series, nearing retirement age itself, prompts questions about how much time is left for its subjects, for its director, for all of us, and reminds us that we cannot know.

By Sarah Larsen | The New Yorker

The Jesuit maxim “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”—portentous, mysterious, mildly weird—is well known to fans of Michael Apted’s “Up” series of documentaries, which has followed the lives of a collection of British people since 1964. As a young researcher at Granada Television, in Manchester, a year out of university, Apted helped choose the children who became the subjects of the first film, “Seven Up!”; every seven years since, he’s given us the gift of an update. In “63 Up,” which opens in the U.S. this week, we begin to see the end. The subjects’ physical changes startle and fascinate us; watching aging in these films is like scanning the progressive class-year groups at a high-school reunion. At sixty-three, our friends aren’t elderly but are just beginning to look like senior citizens; they’re talking about retirement, grandchildren, how their lives have gone. But everyone’s personality—Apted’s included—is exactly the same. As each portrait begins, anticipation sets in as we await new details about an ordinary life.

The “Up” series is nearly spellbinding in its sense of accumulated meaning—a feeling that’s enhanced by its form. Over the years, Apted and his longtime editor, Kim Horton, have incorporated several clips again and again, and seeing and hearing them strengthens the films’ incantatory quality. Many lines from “Seven Up!” have become as familiar as song lyrics: “I wanna be a jockey when I grow up, yeah, I wanna be a jockey when I grow up!”; “I read the Financial Times”; “My heart’s desire is to see my daddy”; “I’m going to work at Woolworth’s”; “Stop that at once!”; and so on. The backbeat could come from the Monotones’ “What Would I Do,” to which our young innocents dance together at a party, balloons popping violently as the classes mingle. At this point, “Seven Up!,” black-and-white and bursting with energy, feels like a sacred artifact, beautiful and odd in detail, to which we return again and again to scrutinize against the passing of time. “63 Up” is the ninth in the series; Apted, who has also directed other acclaimed films, including “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Nell,” is seventy-eight. The question of how much time the series has left quietly permeates what could be the final entry.

Continue reading

Michael Apted -the TV trailblazer who gave up trying to play God

As he dies at 79, CHRISTOPHER STEVENS salutes director Michael Apted

by Christopher Stevens

There was Tony, the cheeky East End lad who dreamed of being a jockey. Little ballerina Suzy, the girl from a wealthy family.

Mixed-race Symon, who grew up in an orphanage and became a foster parent.

Neil, the would-be astronaut and restless soul who later dropped out of university and lived in a squat . . .

No doubt, as you read this, some of you can picture their faces now, just a few of the unforgettable characters we met as children in the ITV documentary series Seven Up! (later Up) and have followed throughout their lives — remember Lynn the librarian and am-dram actress Sue?

One of the girls, Suzy Lusk (pictured above in the series when she was a child) refused to take part in the latest instalment. Apted resorted to borrowing a phone and ringing her, ‘so she’d think it was someone else. Then I said it was me, and she put the phone down’

And we’d have known none of them without Michael Apted, the film-maker behind the series, who died last week aged 79.

RIP, British director Michael Apted

(CNN) British filmmaker and documentarian Michael Apted died Thursday night in Los Angeles at the age of 79, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced in a statement Friday.

No details about his death were immediately available.
“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of esteemed director, longtime DGA leader and my friend Michael Apted. His legacy will be forever woven into the fabric of cinema and our Guild,” Thomas Schlamme, the president of DGA, said.
“A fearless visionary as a director and unparalleled Guild leader, Michael saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t, and we were all the beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication,” Schlamme said.
Born in 1941 in Aylesbury, England, Apted had a prolific body of work in television, film and documentaries.
He is known especially for directing the Up series (1964–2019). The Up series follows the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. The documentary has had nine episodes—one episode every seven years—thus spanning 56 years. In 1991 the then most recent installment, 28 Up, was chosen for Roger Ebert’s list of the ten greatest films of all time.
Apted directed the 1980 movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the musical and comedy category. Sissy Spacek won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in the film.