V TV REVIEW
lfyou should ever bump into Michael Apted walking down the street with a discreet camera crew a few paces behind. the chances are he’s about to ask you ifyour age is divisible by seven. and ifso, Would you like to take part in a television documentary. 28 years ago you see. our Mike (then a humble Granada researcher rather than the flash Hollywood producer he is now) came up with the bright spark idea of interviewing a bunch of seven-year-olds, and returning to them at septennial (is that the word?) intervals to ascertain how their lives were progressing.
It‘s a simple enough idea, but one that makes for fascinating television. In 35-Up (Scottish), the latest instalment. we met the kids spreading into middle-age in varied states ofcontentment. Tony (‘I wanna be a jockey when I grow up,l wanna be a jockey . . .‘) had been a jockey. all-too briefly. trailing in a distant last behind his hero Lester Piggott. Tony was one of those Eastenders with an eternally optimistic air. only knocked out of his stride by the death of his beloved mother. He embraced each new profession with an intensity that was heart-breaking to watch. He’d been
It was comforting to see that, at age seven, all of these kids had learned the art of speaking in sound-bites.
a cabbie (‘I had that Warren Mitchell in the back the other day. . .‘). a failed publican, a failed actor (‘I worked with Steven Spielberg. . . for two weeks’) but was now a contentedly indulgent family man in
| a steady, ifunexciting job. 'The wife
I insists on getting them all the Naff
‘ gear, and the Roebuck trainers.
; Spends a fortune. She’s too soft with 3 them. . .‘ It wasastartlingtransition 5 from the cocky lad of21 telling us
i about the ‘Four Fs' method of
: treating women. ‘Find ‘em. feel ‘em. E . . and forget ‘em. You can guess
70The List 31 May— 13June 1991
what the other F is.‘
It might be easy in retrospect but the clips of the seven-year-olds did tend to suggest their personalities, and to some extent their destinies, were fully-formed even at that tender age. We followed the frankly loathsome public-school boys John, Andrew and Charles through the layers of privilege, from prep school to Charterhouse. Oxford and jobs at the Bar or in something vague concerning law and property. Charles (already choosing the left edge of the sofa. even at seven) began to drift off. His small rebellions increased over the years. long hair at fourteen, a sweatshirt and jeans while the others were wearing tweedy waistcoats at 21 , and a refusal to take any further part in the programme after he landed a producer‘s job at the BBC. Nice to see that public-school upbringing wasn‘t completely wasted.
Michael Apted is now working in the States. and, like any self-respecting TV-trained producer. is recycling his old ideas.
Age 7 In America (Scottish) shown the
night before. had Meryl Streep introducing us to a cross-section of Young Americans. Those of us who like to sneer at the philistine, TV-centred, junk food-consuming image of American youth were in for
, a few surprises, although it was
comforting to see that. at age seven, all of these kids had learned the art of speaking in sound-bites.
The ‘Four Fs’ method of treating women. ‘Find ’em, feel ’em . . . and forget’em. You can guess what the other F IS.
‘The poor can be rich if they work harder. and get smarter.‘ said Michael. encapsulating the American Dream. Michael wanted
' to be a scientist (‘biography or
something’) and speak Japanese.
t These kids’ lack of racial hang-ups ' was salutory. Most of them saw little
difference between the colours, with
the exception of Selina: ‘My Dad ; told me not to speak to black people.
He‘s scared ofthem. So am I.‘ The sins ofthe fathers. . . What was slightly alarming was
these kids’ fervent desire to embrace a everythingthat was American. They
pledged their allegiances in the morning. learned their folksy
9 American songs in the afternoon,
~ and watched TV or played with
i Barbie in the evenings. Poor little
. Julio. recently arrived from El
7 Salvador was a poignant exception. ; with his lack of English, and his firm
grasp on social realities. Asked the
: difference between El Salvador and
the States he came back with ‘In El Salvador they kill you with big guns. in America they use small guns.‘ I‘m prepared to have a small bet that
three programmes on. in 2011 we‘ll ; see Julio reporting for CNN from
some distant war. thrilling Michael and Katie and Selina and Alexis and the rest of America with his gift for the pithy phrase. (Tom Lappin)
The List guide to what’s on release at your rental store and on the sell-through shelves. Time to polish up the tape-heads and settle back...
I The Grifters (18) A swift transfer to videotape for Stephen Frears‘ delightfully sleazy tale of Streetwise hustlers- the “grifters‘ ofthe title. Anjelica Huston is superb as Lily. an odds-fixer for the mob. playingit alternately tough and tender with the emphasis on the tough. John Cusack causes problems as her estranged son Roy. laying up in hospital after a scam backfires. Annette Betting plays Roy's ambitious girlfriend Myra. The scene is set for a far from happy family reunion. and some dangerous gambles. Frears captures magnificently the desperation. insecurity and naked self-interest of losers living on the edge. (Palace Rental)
I MrAnd Mrs Bridge ( 15) Merchant/Ivory usually equals costumes. period detail and a plodding plot that has you stretching for the fast forward button. This has the first two all right. but is made surprisingly watchable by the performances ofthe principals. Paul Newman as the humourless Kansas City lawyer. and Joanne Woodward as his passive. domesticated wife. Nothing much happened in Kansas City just before the war. and consequently nothing much happens in the film. but that gives you a chance to admire the care and attention which the actors devote to getting inside the characters and the relationship between these two contrasting individuals. existing in an enclosed and insular community. (Palace Rental)
I Life Is Sweet ( 15) Mike Leigh‘s latest. and arguably best. film is a typical slice-of-life comedy set in a North London suburb. Alison Steadman plays the innuendo-obsessed mum doing her best to hold things together. not only for her family. but also for friend Timothy Spall. who is opening the world‘s worst restaurant. Steadman copes with her husband‘s dreaminess and
-‘ her daughter‘s neuroses
admirably. and Leigh certainly seems to have a brighter view oflife
? nowadays. This is acutely observed uplifting stuff. often hilariously funny and more than a little moving in places.
l Chocolate spread will never be quite the same again. (Palace Rental)
I Hidden Agenda (15) Ken Loach. renowned for the : political commitment in
I his films. tackles the
subject of Northern Ireland in his fictional account of a government cover-up that has more than a touch of i "this-could-happen‘about it. When an American lawyer is killed. details begin to emerge that the government prefers to keep from public consumption. In the course of a tense if somewhat over-technical thriller plot. Loach reveals plenty of rather disturbing facts about Britain‘s record on civil ; and human rights. that make this rather more educational than the average censored news report. (Fox Rental)
students. dontcha just : love 'em‘.’ This wacky 1 bunch. fed up with the usual larks with amputated legs. start tampering with life-support machines in an attempt to find out about the afterlife. Unfortunately they get more than they bargained for. It's an entertaining enough yarn for the first forty-five minutesor so but things begin to get a bit repetitive in the second half. and the endingis more than a little unsatisfactory. Julia Roberts did this before Pretty Woman made her a megastar. and probably regrets it. (RCA/Columbia Rental) I Signs 0fLile(15) (MCEG Virgin Rental) I UnderThe Boardwalk (15) (20:20 Rental) I Memphis Belle (PG) (Warner Rental) I The Sheltering Sky(18) (Fox Rental) I Blood Riveru’G) (Fox Rental) I Too Much Sun ( 18) (First Independent Rental)
I My Blue Heaven (PG) (Warner Rental)
I Framed ( IS) (Warner Rental)
I Texasville ( 15) (Guild Rental)
IBird 0nAWire(15)(ClC Rental)
I Ghost Dad (PG) (CIC Rental)
I Catchlire (15) (First Independent Rental)
BEST OF SELL-THROUGH I The Darling Buds 0f May Out on video already? The smash-hit series with David Jason and Pam Ferris as the lotus-eating Larkins is either glorious escapism. or banal sentimentality. depending on how grouchy you‘re feeling. (Castle £9.99)
I Jeremy Beadle's You've Been Framed Now this is more like it. Seriously funny pranks from the comic genius with the beard and the endearing grin. Laugh as hapless members of the public from Essex are ritually humiliated and swear a lot. Brilliant ( You 'refired — lid). (Castle £9.99)
I Clangers 2 “Phooooee.' says Tiny Clanger. "eeeoooffeeeett.' replies Major Clanger. The Soup Dragon translates to tell you that this frighteningly weird programme from the archives is seriously brilliant. Buy three copies today and make your friends very happy indeed. (BBC£7.99)
I Doctor Who: The llartnell Years (U) (BBC£]0.21)
I Doctor WhozThe Troughton Years (U) (BBC £10.21)
I Alexei Sayle’s Stuff(PG) (BBC£10.21)
I Cricket: The 70s(BBC £10.21)
I 1966 World Cup Final (BBC£1().21)
I Dad's Army: Big Guns (U) (BBC£10.21)
I Dad’s Army: Mum’s Army (U) (BBC £10.21)
ITinker Tailor SoldierSpy (PG) Double pack (BBC £19.99)
I Smiley’s People ( 15) Double pack (BBC £19.99)
I Heathers(18) (RCA/Columbia£10.99) I HenryV(PG) (RCA/Columbia£]0.99) I Macbeth(15)
I (RCA/Columbia£10.99) Illunchback OfNotre
Dame (PG) (RCA/Columbia£10.99)