I saw this documentary spread out over three episodes on SBS TV over here. Perhaps it is the new medium which makes me think that this latest installment is the best in the series. Somehow it seems more lucid and to the point. Given that my memory of the cinema released earlier installments of this series isn't fresh, I'll just have to take on trust that this superiority in quality is real and not imagined. It's my impression that the organisation of these subjects' stories is more logically presented in any case. It just coheres better.
Being the 8th instalment in this series, you have to wonder if the 'experiment' has run its course...it must surely have 'proven' what it set out to achieve...to determine how class effects people's life chances in England. These subjects are now 56 years old (obviously) and we already know how their life unfolded...many movies ago. The director of this series, Michael Apted, is also getting on in years and you have to wonder if he will be around in another seven years to do another one of these documentaries...or if his health will be sufficient.
Each episode I saw of 56 Up on SBS had 3 or 4 subjects the featured people of that episode (I saw this documentary late last year, so it's not fresh in my memory...going on notes here). I did in fact wonder whether I had missed a previous movie in this series (which I'm not sure is the case) because at least one of the subjects did not ring a bell for me (looking at the Wikipedia entry for the "56 Up", I think that that may in fact have been Peter). However, the series is notorious for various subjects not turning up in a later movie, in seven years time (some subjects I think have never reappeared after 14 Up). If there were subjects from 7 Up missing, they were not mentioned, unfortunately (a mention of their last appearance and the reason/s given for them refusing to participate in future documentaries would have been good). Since each new documentary often recaps the subject's appearance in some/all previous "Up" documentaries, it's not strictly necessary to watch them all in order...but it might be nice to check out where it all began, "7 Up" (the concept for the series being the old Jesuit saying "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man". The idea being that these formative first seven years will determine the adult).
Some things which interested me:
* If there was any reason to have another instalment in this series, for me it would be to find out how Jackie fares...in 56 Up she has rheumatoid arthritis and gets dropped from a social security benefit on the basis that she can still work. Like a soap opera, I want to know "What happens to her?". In this documentary she is relying on financial assistance from her son, I think.
* Director/interviewer Michael Apted is more the centre of attention in this episode at times...he wonders aloud to Tony if he (Tony) is racist. Tony doesn't like that one bit!
* John, a barrister, makes a good point about the series portraying his success as an inevitable part of his background (i.e. class) but he does make a good point about how fragile his background was and how his life could have crashed around him had it not been for his mother's perseverance. Such contextual information was not presented in the earlier documentaries, which suggests that the series was ignoring counter-factual evidence to its premise that class determines life outcomes.
* Sue was an interesting case. By Australian standards, her rise to being an administrator at a university would suggest social mobility. She has working class roots, I think. The way that Sue describes it, she is not doing so well. I'm curious as to whether this is indicative of the squeeze on the middle class these last few years or merely her spending habits. I'm pretty sure that someone in her position over here would be considered middle class, at least...upper middle class, in fact. I'm not suggesting that she is a spendthrift...I have no idea...just wondering if it is a possibility though...as in she thinks she is poor because she is a consumerist.
* Suzy is also interesting in this documentary, from memory. I think it is her who tells Apted that she feels a certain perverse sense of loyalty to the series...like it's a potboiler, but she feels a sense of duty to it, or something like that. In other words, she doesn't feel as if the "Up" series is some sort of important social documentary.
* The "Up" series has a musical sting (very dramatic brass riff) which reminds me of the Australian TV police drama "Homicide".
* Just btb, I was curious about a scene they included from "7 Up"...I think it involved Bruce...at the party, I think, or maybe the playground...it almost looks like he takes out another boy's eye (almost!)...or perhaps he was the victim. Looked dangerous in any case!
* I wasn't sure if all of Jackie's friends from 7 Up were in this documentary and I suspect that the more casual boy who was friends with John and his fellow 'posh' subjects was missing from this latest instalment too.
* Peter's return seems to be merely to promote his band! Apparently they are quite successful in their own way in England. It's this guy who I don't think I knew who the Hell he was!
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