I hope you like documentaries. I sure do. If you don't, you're kinda screwed now.
Here's a link to the previous installment of my series.
Age has worn the “Up” series into a tattered pair of jeans that's threatening to fall apart at its seams. How many times can Michael Apted ask his subjects to evaluate the series' well-known premise (“Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man”) before they slap him away in sheer exasperation? What can they answer? Yes, no, maybe. I dunno, I'm just living my life.
And yet age continues to imbue the greatest of all cinematic universes with increasing power, all of it stemming from the shared opportunity to watch these characters gamely pressing back against the weight of time that crushes us all to dust. Virtually any viewer who got in on “Up” many years ago felt the dread of following Neil on what seemed quite obviously to be his tragic trajectory, only to feel relief bordering on elation at seeing him rally against overwhelming resistance. Tony has transformed from jockey to cab driver to philanderer to devoted husband and father, and it's amazing how many times I've wondered over the past few years what he thought about Brexit. Answer from “63 Up”: about what I thought, but with more nuance than I may have expected.
There's been an extra kick in watching the women of the series not only navigate through life, but also to push back against the sexist questions they've had to endure through many earlier installments. Apted appears to be learning on that front, if frustratingly slowly. And I always knew I would have a rough time dealing with the first death in the series, but even though I had read the news year before, watching it revealed in “63 Up” hit me like ton upon ton of bricks.
I can't think of another film or TV series, fiction or non-fiction, that has made me care so much about its characters. From the working-class heroes to the upper-crust elites, I can't fathom disliking a single one of them and I'll never get tired of checking in on them every seven years. I hate to think “63” might be the final chapter. I'm hoping to stick around for at least “98 Up.” Do I hear “105”?
I didn't think it was possible for me to admire Kirsten Johnson's “Cameraperson” any more than I did on my first viewing. But with a few years to think about it (and I think about it often) I'm now convinced that Johnson has crafted the greatest non-fiction film memoir I've ever seen. Her movie intertwines the workplace with the personal so seamlessly and leaps across continents and decades with such deftness, weaving it all together into a single flowing narrative, that I can't conceive of a documentary course that doesn't feature this movie on the syllabus.
I'm pretty pleased with what I wrote about the film when it was released by The Criterion Collection, so I'm just going to link you to my review. If I seemed effusive in my praise at the time, I can only promise you that I was underselling the movie.