56 and counting
May 8, 2012 10:19 AM   Subscribe

The Up Series [previously] continues. This documentary series, begun in 1964, has revisited the lives of a select group of British citizens once every seven years of their life. 56 Up, which shows the group at age 56, will air sometime in mid-May on the BBC, but until then, have this great Guardian article about the impact of the films on the lives of the people featured in them.
posted by showbiz_liz (34 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Also: the previous installments are available on Netflix Instant!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2012

"The overt politics evaporated," says Apted. "Society's changed. The politics of the films are now their lives."

[Symon Basterfield] says that what began as a sociological exercise became a more human engagement with individual lives. "In the beginning you could see exactly what they wanted. I noticed that with Paul [who was in the same care home] and I. We were supposed to have aspirations to what we wanted in life, but the boys from wealthy backgrounds were encouraged to say their lives were plotted and planned. It was all hopes and dreams for us, but their lives were mapped out."

It's been great to see, in the last couple of installments and now here, how explicitly aware the participants all are about this change. The project would have been so boring if it remained overstuffed with what Apted calls "overt politics" — a polite word for his own didacticism. But instead the project became an example of the best kind of humanism; the kind that, though social factors are always there and never discounted, is driven by pure sympathetic interest in other people's lives.
posted by RogerB at 10:28 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Question from someone who's never seen any of the series (but loves documentaries) for those that have: is it possible to pick up at any one of the installments and watch them out of order, or is it imperative to watch them in sequence?
posted by item at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2012

Professor Hitchon was one of my profs when I studied engineering.

He's a funny guy, and his involvment in this project is at once explanatory and inexplicable. Once on an exam, he had a bonus question that was "VI is what?"* and I answered "Shittier than emacs."

He asked me in class what the bloody hell an emacs was.

* VI=P = power in watts
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:32 AM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's not imperative to watch all of the Up films in order — the later installments include a lot of clips from the earlier ones, so you can see a bit of the growing-up process in any one of them — but the longitudinal, longue-duree thing is what makes the series really interesting and really moving. They are rewarding in a different, deeper way when you see them all.
posted by RogerB at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've seen 7 through 35, and I would probably recommend you watch them in order. 7 is dated in many ways beyond the black & white, but I think it's critical foundation for the rest of them.

Also, Vi is not shittier than emacs. So there.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Peter Davies went to the same middle-class Liverpool suburban school as Neil, who like Peter wanted to be an astronaut. Peter drifted through university, and by age 28 he was an underpaid and seemingly uninspired school teacher. Peter dropped out of the series after 28 Up, when he lost his job as a teacher following a tabloid press campaign against him after he criticized the government of Margaret Thatcher in his interview.

This participant dropped out, hounded by rightwingers in the 80s for his beliefs. I wonder if Apted has any regrets about that.
posted by Jehan at 10:36 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Question from someone who's never seen any of the series (but loves documentaries) for those that have: is it possible to pick up at any one of the installments and watch them out of order, or is it imperative to watch them in sequence?

The first one I saw was 35 Up, because I was working at a little art-house cinema in my hometown while in high school. At the time, during the VHS era in a mid-sized Midwestern town, there really wasn't any way to catch up and see the other films. I enjoyed 35 Up as a portrait of a cross-section of real British life (of which I knew comparatively little at the time), but I think the series gains far more power when viewed in sequence and in context.
posted by mykescipark at 10:37 AM on May 8, 2012

I've seeen several of these. I had the impression that fewer and fewer of the original kids wanted to participating in the movies. I'd been thinking that the last entry would be the final one.
posted by DarkForest at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2012

I saw 28 Up when it came out.

Now I am depressed.
posted by Trurl at 10:39 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is so great. Can't wait!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:39 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

These films have had a profound impact on me. I wonder if there's a way to contact the participants and let them know.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2012

I also saw 28Up with my parents when it first came out, and have back to see every release since.

I loved Tony- an irrepressible spirit right from the beginning. I thought it was pretty interesting how you could sort of see there temperments stay more or less consistent throughout their lives.

(I am also a relatively uninspired school teacher and it is killing my spelling so please forgive my typos).

I found the last one pretty depressing though- people's lives had pretty much plateaued and and I guess the youthful optimism had sort of worn off.

Or maybe I was projecting since I was 31 by then I felt my own life stagnating a bit...

Can't wait for next installment. My other complaint though is that obviously due to length, the more years that are incorporated, the more that the younger years are edited out. 1964 Britain...those kids are adorable.
posted by bquarters at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2012

Question from someone who's never seen any of the series (but loves documentaries) for those that have: is it possible to pick up at any one of the installments and watch them out of order, or is it imperative to watch them in sequence?

You don't need to watch them in order. In fact, it can be worse to watch them in order, since you end up seeing a lot of repeated footage from the movies you've already seen.
posted by John Cohen at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2012

Yeah, I was going to say what John Cohen did. I watched them in order and it was sometimes tedious to see the same clips from the earlier films. But then, I wasn't watching them every seven years, but several in a week.
posted by Beardman at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2012

I really enjoy these. But what was up with that scene where dude goes to Bangladesh to teach kids English, but all they say is the name of the country??

Bangladesh, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, Bangladesh.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:25 AM on May 8, 2012

Also I was sad when jockey-dude went a little racist about changing demographics in the East End. Unlike so much "reality" TV it is completely honest though.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I loved when the balloons made the house fly away
posted by notmydesk at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

Considering how negative most of the participants were in "49", I am very surprised any of them agreed to "56".

Thanks to the Internet, I assume that this time around I won't have to wait a couple of years after the BBC airs "56" to see it here in the U.S.

I am exactly 7 years younger than the "children" of the series, and whenever I see a new installment, I always wonder what the next 7 years will have in store for me. I would give almost anything for the ability to look back at myself in those intervals, but I would give even more to be able to look forward.
posted by briank at 11:31 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seven Up has some of the cutest non-kitty footage available on the internet.
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 12:00 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Watching this series (the whole thing in under a week, omg) made me think you could pretty much tell what someone was going to be like by seeing them at 14. Except for Neil, I found it all fascinating, but not surprising.

Anyway, my favourite of the group is Bruce - what a darling. Also, Nick. I can't wait to find out how they are.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been fascinated by this series, am keen to figure out how I can get my mits on 56 up.

I watched 49Up recently (it's on netflix if anyone's interested), also felt sad when Tony said those things about the East End, while being amped about installing an all Pommy pub in his corner of anglicised Spain. I found that uncomfortable.

I've not done an enormous amount of reading on it, but found the mention of the criticism he drew regarding his editing style and its method of framing the viewer's perception of each participant to be tantalisingly interesting. From wikipedia "The Up series has been criticised by both ethnographers and the subjects themselves for its editing style. Mitchell Duneier has pointed out that Apted has the ability to create causal relationships between a character's past and present that might not actually exist.[9] Apted has acknowledged this fact, pointing out that in 21 Up he believed Tony would soon be in prison so he filmed him around dangerous areas for use in later films.[10]" Sources are ethnography journals.
posted by pymsical at 12:30 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

One benefit, I think, of watching them in order -- or at least some key installments -- is that you get a fuller sense of the ups and downs of the participants' lives. I thought 35 Up was the most downbeat of the series -- it seemed like more than a few of the participants were sort of aimless and unhappy with how their lives were going. Then you get to 42 Up and (***SPOILER ALERT FOR LIFE***) it gets better, which is nice.

Being a little over ten years younger than these people, I've found the series to be an interesting map of the road ahead -- generally speaking, my life has tended to match the outlines of the Up participants. 42 to 49 seems to have been a fairly stable period for many of them, which is good to know -- I could use a few years of uneventful living!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:43 PM on May 8, 2012

56 Up is going to be on channel ITV1 at 5PM Est and 9PM GMT(http://www.itv.com/tvguide/#intcmp=NAV_TVGUIDE) on Monday May 14th

Streaming link I believe will be here http://livetvcafe.net/video/B52828O2BX4G/ITV-1 or http://www.time4tv.net/2011/06/itv-1.html
posted by basketballandinternet at 1:03 PM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I want to learn about the mooon and all that.
posted by Jpfed at 1:10 PM on May 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

I forget about this every seven years, and here it is again, wonderfully. They are exactly me, as-time-goes-bywise. Thank you.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:55 PM on May 8, 2012

I find myself thinking about this series all the time, especially as I round the corner on an age that was covered by it, and as I go through the same stages of life that the participants have gone through. Peter and Symon's divorces between 28 Up and 35 Up. Bruce's longing for a family through his 30s, marriage by 42 Up and children by 49 Up. Suzie's bitterness and insecurity in 21 Up giving way to calm stability in 28 Up.
I really look forward to seeing this when I can.
posted by aabbbiee at 3:07 PM on May 8, 2012

These are so, so great. I watched them all and then found other similar series and watched those. They did some for other countries, though South Africa is the only one I can recall at the moment. And there is a series that interviews married folks and follows up with them years later.

But I also feel guilty being so enthralled with these people. It does seem like many participants suffered negatively to one degree or another because of their participation, and that is really awful.
posted by Glinn at 3:30 PM on May 8, 2012

> Watching this series (the whole thing in under a week, omg) made me think you could pretty much tell what someone was going to be like by seeing them at 14.

The two guys who ended up being lawyers told us at the age of 7 where they were going to go to school, where they were going to go to university, and one said he was going to be a barrister if I recall correctly, although I could be misremembering that detail as it has been a few years. I was agape to hear a 7 year old say he was going to attend King's College Oxford.
posted by bukvich at 3:34 PM on May 8, 2012

Also I think the jockey / cab driver must have been drinking when he made the racist comment. He is obviously smart enough to know better than to do that on tape. Yikes. Right up to that point he was definitely one of my two or three favorites.
posted by bukvich at 3:42 PM on May 8, 2012

Apted's getting on in years, so I hope he might think about passing the project on to someone else. I'd live to watch the subjects in their 60's and 70's, navigating the end of their lives.

They did some for other countries, though South Africa is the only one I can recall at the moment.

I saw 21 Up South Africa, and found it much more affecting. The subjects were interviewed soon after the end of apartheid, so they talked a lot about the extreme social changes in the country.

Unlike the original Up Series, the South African producers took care to select subjects representative of the country's many different ethnic groups. They had Afrikaners, blacks, and even an ethnic East Indian girl.

3 of the participants died of AIDS between 14 Up South Africa and 21 Up South Africa. Seeing the funerals was very sad.
posted by reenum at 8:27 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I found this series fascinating in theory, and quite depressing in practice. I may even skip 56.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:31 PM on May 8, 2012

I'm thoroughly looking forward to this. I introduced these to my wife a few years back and that prompted renting out the earlier ones. It's quite shocking to see how much of their attitude and outlook is determined at 14.

Definitely worth trying out at 21 and up if you haven't seen them before.
posted by fishboy at 12:05 AM on May 9, 2012

I just love this series, watching the people grow and evolve.

So much fun to watch, amazing to watch the troubled marriages and then the more successful re-marriages, great to watch Tony and his wife get past marital infidelity, just great to watch life unfold on the screen in front of me. I love them all.

The past two have been pretty amazing to me re the way in which Neil's life is pretty much saved by Bruce, who I would give a medal as being one of the best citizens I've ever seen. Neil was in deep trouble, I just cannot see that he'd ever have dug himself out; due to the help of Bruce he's a happy man. Beautiful.

Overall, the premise of the series -- "Give me a child at seven and I will show you the man." -- that has mostly held true. Still, though these people do hold true to their social standing, it's beautiful to watch them live their lives. I can't imagine being one of them, probably I'd have dropped before 28 UP -- your whole life under a microscope? They've got courage.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:00 PM on May 9, 2012

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