Friday, May 27

Michael Apted – A Vital and Worthy Principal Who Understood How Class Shapes Us All | Michael Apted

METERichael Apted, who died at age 79, was a British film director who, like Ken Loach and Ken Russell, earned his stripes working on television. But his destiny was to help create an ongoing epic masterpiece for the small screen with a truly cinematic scope and beyond: today’s television on the scale of cinema, combined with the Mass Observation Project and the Roman census.

Seven Up! From Granada Television since 1964, it was, to quote a comedy of the time, not so much a program, but a way of life. It took 14 British boys at the Jesuit age of seven (that is, the age at which Saint Ignatius of Loyola of the Jesuits said he could “show you the man” if they were educated early enough) and interviewed them about their lives and opinions. seven from the working class and seven from an elegant caste. It was then updated every seven years, and eventually spanned 56 years.

Seven Up! it was directed by Paul Almond, with Apted working as a researcher; Apted went on to direct all subsequent series and came to define this fascinating and moving thought experiment in class, history, and identity; Highly conceived before reality shows, and also, perhaps, before the media and the public don’t so readily accept such a large liberal-paternalistic perspective. It had an incalculable effect on British social realist cinema from the early 1960s to the present day, as well as on the thinking of the British progressive left, as it asked us to ruminate on the inescapability or not of class, and what narratives they were possible for working people.

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He was also the key influence on one of the best American movies of the 21st century: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014), which shows the coming of age of a young man in a kind of time-lapse movie, shot over 12 years. And in the 2000s it became impossible to watch Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint grow up before our eyes in the Harry Potter movies without thinking of Michael Apted’s magnificently daring creation.

Sophie Marceau and Pierce Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough.
Sophie Marceau and Pierce Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough. Photograph: APL Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Apted was far from being a sober social preacher, of course – he directed Jack Rosenthal’s glorious TV comedy P’Tang Yang Kipperbang in 1982 (which was also something of a growing-pains drama). On the big screen he was also going to direct a Bond film: The World Is Not Enough in 1999, and his last film, in 2017, was the entertaining action thriller. Unlocked, with Noomi Rapace and John Malkovich.

But it was Hollywood that gave Apted his biggest career break, and the opportunity to direct a much-admired feature film that combined his social concerns with his commercial cinematic staunch. His Oscar-winning Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), written by Tom Rickman, was a biopic of country singer Loretta Lynn (played by Sissy Spacek), the daughter of the Kentucky mountainous country miner who achieved greatness in the world. of the Show. Here too Apted displayed a vigorous sense of class and background, though it was America, not Britain, that allowed him to create a film that showed someone breaking free from everything.

Apted also had a surefire touch for prestigious and award-winning cinema: Gorillas in the Mist (1988), about the naturalist Dian Fossey, and Class Action (1991) about a legal battle against the manufacturers of a defective car, both demonstrated their connection to ideas and ideals, and the technique with which he made them work on screen within the conventional studio system. And, of course, he was able to handle the single thriller with tremendous momentum, like Enigma (2001), his Bletchley Park drama adapted by Tom Stoppard from Robert Harris’s novel.

Like the children in his unforgettable television masterpiece, Apted grew up and left, but perhaps not that far, and his films always showed how class, family, and country shaped who we are.

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