The "Seven Up" series, which began as the British TV special Seven Up! (1964) and was followed by the sequel 7 Plus Seven (1970), ranks as one of the most fascinating experiments in all cinema: for nearly a half century now, the filmmakers have followed a group of Britons through the changes of their lives, checking in with them every seven years. With each new installment the series arguably grows more important, but 56 Up also shows how heavily rutted the thematic ground has become; longtime Up director Michael Apted and codirector Paul Almond draw on the wealth of footage accumulated over the years to construct montages of their subjects talking about love or success, but as more than one participant justly complains, the movies represent little more than a shorthand version of their lives. This suffers as well from the fact that the subjects’ lives haven’t changed all that much since 49 Up (2005); perhaps the series will improve yet as they head into old age.
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