49 Up: More than a movie

49 Up: Must See! The Stranger | Seattle

At the age of 7, when the initial segment of the Seven Up! series was filmed for British television, the subjects were perfect mirrors of their class backgrounds. Three public school twits bragged about their Oxbridge futures and announced their preference for the Financial Times; their female counterparts in London’s East End giggled about husbands and babies. Forty-two years and 7 episodes later, their stories have unfolded in a more jagged manner than they would have predicted (mental illness, divorce, and American universities all helped to jiggle the petri dish), but the imprint of class and, especially, early gender roles is unmistakable.

 

I saw the American premiere of the latest installment of the Up Series, 49 Up, last night at the Seattle International Film Festival.  Breakup Shoes and I had rented every other Up movie from Netflix over the past four months and to see the 49 Up on the big screen was just so amazing for us.  We annoyed the people around us by talking along with the most memorable parts of the movie ("But I don’t like greens!") and sat in awe as we saw our friends suddenly age from 42 to 49, as if we ran into an old friend we hadn’t seen in seven years. We’ve gotten to know these people, have dissected their lives and theorized about where their lives would lead them.  Elements of class, race, politics, education, gender, mental illness, nationalism, love permeate their stories.  It’s kind of like if reality TV went straight from 5th grade to get a PhD. 

 

You can rent the Up series from Netflix.  I’d recommend starting with 21 Up if you want to see the whole series (so you can be surprised as the series progress) or start with 42 Up if you just want to get your feet wet.

 

See why Roger Ebert called it the most noble use of the film media.

 

 

 

 

Spoiler alert:

 

The most intense part of this episode is when Jackie really lays in to the film maker, who completely deserved it after asking an insulting question.  She speaks on behalf of everyone who’s persona has ever been simplified and shaped through presentation in some kind of medium.  It inspired gasps and cheers and as the rest of the movie unfolded we saw more evidence to support her claims.  A very important moment in documentary film.

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