Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 21, 1986
Michael Apted's '28 Up' becomes the stale thing
By Byron Bull
The film is called 28 Up, a British
documentary that tackles the
very ambitious task of trying to track,
and to some degree analyze, a
generation from childhood to
adulthood. The project first started
just over 21 years ago with 7 Up, a
short documentary that took a cross
section of English boys and girls from
various parts of the country and in-
terviewed them, returning for another
look. every seven years in successive
films to find out where each subject
has gone, and how much or little each
one's attitudes had changed.
The current release being the fourth
segment of this series, directed by
SUNDAY. MARCH 23, 10-5
50 Mid-West Dealers
Mich. National Guard Armory
2500 S. Washington, LANSING. MI
Michael Apted, focuses on its half-
dozen or so subjects at age 28, and, by
incorporating a great deal of footage
from its predecessors, attempts to
reach some sort of conclusion about
these men and women. He tries to
contrast their earlier dreams or
frustrations with their eventual
achievements and, to some extent it
seems, reach something of an ar-
bitrary conclusion about whose life is
a failure and whose is a success.
As a result, 28 Up isn't a true
documentary, but rather an idiosyn-
cratic, somewhat eccentric piece of
filmmaking that fails as a com-
prehensive study of human growth,
yet still provides fascinating and
sometimes very touching portraits of
life as viewed through a distorted
Beyond the inherent limitations of
the documentary form, 28 Up is
limited in scope by the fact that it ex-
plores its subjects almost solely
through interviews. Thus the view we
get is first tainted by the individual's
own inevitable amount of subjective
self-analysis, and by the filmmaker's
often all too-obvious desire to dissect
and neatly summarize an individual's
entire life in ten or so minutes.
There's no intimacy to 28 Up's
vision; it lacks humanity. Though it
is often interesting, there's little
drama because Apted and Company
sum up 'everyone's lives with such
Take, for example, the life of Tom,
who as a boy was a street-toughened,
coolly armored fellow from the East
End. He is all too aware of his lower-
class status and the burden of pulling
himself up from it against the severely
suffocating British class system. Yet,
at age 28 Tom is a reasonably suc-
cessful cabdriver, able to support
himself and his family in a level of
comfort that seems to satisy him.
More significantly, Tom is good
natured, even jovial, a complete turn
of the heart from his younger self, a
change which Apted never seeks to
uncover the source of, and quite
probably the most significant factor
in Tom' success.
Even more interesting is the case of
Suzi, who, as an adolescent, seemed
terribly withdrawn, and at 21, wret-
chedly cynical and unhappy, yet just
seven years later she undergoes
most mysterious and wonderful
change into a woman, who now
married and the mother of two, is
aglow with warmth and apparent
piece of mind. Suzi makes a passing
comment during the course of the in-
terview that part of the reason she
was so miserable was that she didn't
know what she was looking for. She
makes some indication that she found
it in her husband, though Apted lets
the remark go right by without pur-
Even if Suzi's husband is seen
briefly, sitting off to the side during
the interview, he is left out of the pic-
ture, because 28 Up's most fatal fault
is to refuse to examine its subject
through the effect that other people
might have on them, to ignore the
other characters in their lives and
treat them at best merely as part of
Another man, a teacher named
Peter, who seems terribly embittered
about the country's class system, is
likewise rather casually profiled.
He's interviewed for a few choice
venemous bits of commentary on the
Conservative government, but other-
wise treated as something of a sad
joke. When the interviewer asks
Peter's wife what it was about her
husband that made her fall in love
with him, she replies curtly , "Who
said love had anything to do with it?"
The ensuing discussion paints an un-
settling dispassionate, empty portrait
of a relationship that is never sub-
sequently explored. Apted doesn't go
after the root of how these two terribly
pathetic people evolved; he uses
them for a cheap laugh and goes on.
Apted doesn't seem to care really, and
although the viewer may, the film has
something of a numbing effect on the
emotions. After awhile one starts to
distance onesself from the picture.
Eventually, 28 Up emerges not so
much as an exploration of people, as it
was originally started, but merely a
fulfillment of an obligation by the
filmmakers. Whatever humanist in-
terest sparked the inception of this
series has long since evaporated, and
this winding up feels disinterested,
sometimes even resentful towards its
subjects for having to follow them
around. At times the film has callous,
even malicious overtones. At one
point, the interviewer is talking to
Bruce, a man who has committed his
The Minutemen - 3-Way
Tie for Last (SST)
The Minutemen are dead. Or,
specifically, D. Boon, the San Pedro,
California trio's two-tons-of-kinetic
jello guitarist/singer. Tragedy
prevented the career of this
ever-you-want-to-call-it outfit from
slipping into their second half-decade
as one of America's most important
underground bands, when a vehicular
mishap in late December '85 claimed
the life and boundless spirit of their
twenty-eight year old leader, the for-
mer Dennes Dale Boon.
The accident came at a time when
the band was poised directly on the
jaws of more widespread appeal. Not
an appeal based on a more commer-
cialized, mass-marketed approach,
but as a response to the band's truly
eclectic style. Much musical progress
was evident throughout the band's
prolific recording career, moving
from minimalist primal-scream punk
to full -blown production numbers (in-
cluding trumper parts). Extensive
touring, including last year's jaunt
supporting R.E.M., exposed their
music to a larger audience. Heck,
they even appeared on MTV. Still,
their approach to rock music through
brief improvisational concepts was as
radical as any band's. Ever.
The final studio tracks from this
amazing band came out
simultaneously with the date of D.'s
departure from terra firma to rock
and roll heaven. The major differen-
ce between 3-Way Tie for Last and the
Minutemen's other vinyl offerings is
the new LP's overtly political stance.
The group is no Donny-the-punk-
come-latelys to political music;
Boon's lyrics consistently cham-
pioned the plight of the little man as
he struggled against the oppressive
bureaucratic forces of our society.
However, previous efforts found most
of their protestations veiled by ab-
stractions. Here, their views come
directly to the fore, starting with the
album's cover art. A painting by
Boon, the jacket features portraits of
the band members as an "anti-war
sympathizer" (bassist Mike Watt), a
"dude/Local 357" (drummer George
Hurley), and a "singer/activist"
(Boon), over the title caption
that ironically sums up the position of
those who stand up for what they
believe in the U.S. - a 3-Way Tie for
Boon's lyrics go straight for the
jugular of the military-industrial
complex: "The Price of Paradise"
attacks the injustice of the Vietnam
War, while "The Big Stick"
(Nicaragua and Guatemala) and
"'Just Another Soldier" (Beirut) are
exortations to prevent that type of
imperialist mistake from occuring
again. The words are earnest and
heartfelt (though a bit heavy-handed
on "Big Stick," where too many
polysyllables are crammed into one
line) and display a songwriting talent
that could have developed into one of
America's finest. On "Courage,"
slash and burn guitar pounds the way
for Boon's story of a soldier's choice
to serve in a song that would surely be
a hit if radio wasn't entrenched in
AOR dinosaur tracks.
Watt writes his share of tunes as;
well (mostly with ex-Black Flag
bassist Kira), and a fair number of
these rock like never before.
"Political NIghtmare" is an exem-
plary Minuteman cut, seguing back
and forth from rib-thumping echo-
laden metal to mellow bass and drum
lines with characteristic ease through
the transition of pulsing guitar, until
all Hell breaks loose at the end,
simulating Armageddon: Woke up
screaming/someone had changed
sides/ everyone was dying. /one
too many votes: Satan won.
"No One" also beats its earth-split-
ting rhythm mercilessly on the
listener through apocalyptic guitars
and call-and-response vocals. "What
Is It?," with its joyous up tempo
stop/start structure, harkens back to
the Minutemen's magnum opus, the
Double Nickels on the Dime LP (as
does the Spanish-flavored acoustic in-
strumental "Hitting the Bong," which
recalls Double Nickels' "Cohesion").
This song is just too much fun to define.
"Stories," on the other hand, is a slow
ballad, tinged with sadness within the
context of Boon's death. His plaintive
voice ironically sings of a situation not
much different than this listener's
reaction upon hearing of the song-
writer's death. I heard one today
about the one I love/I heard one
today that shook me up./I heard
one the other day, I can't believe
that it's true. /I heard one by ac-
cident, I wish I hadn't.
Also featured on the album are a
number of cover versions, including a
life to teaching a racially mixed class.
in a lower-class neighborhood and
seems quite satisfied. Then he starts
attacking Bruce's deeply personal
religious beliefs, his private sense of
idealisms, and finally coming right outt
implying that he's a failure to be stuck
in a school like this - when the clips
of Bruce's life at work show him to be
a highly competent, sensitive teacher
absolutely invigorated by his work -
in a moment of shocking viciousness.
28 Up is part of a project that star-
ted with so much initial promise and
such possiblities that it's a shame to'
see it mishandled in the end. It ex-
ploits the very people it originally set.
out to explore. Yet it is not a film
without merits, for these people and
their stories, what little is glimpsed of
them make provocative insights into
human nature, and if one can suffer 281
Up's disregard for them, one will find
the experience rewarding. This film
is worth seeking out.
28 Up will be presented this
evening by Cinema M at Angell
Hall, Aud. A. Times are 7 p.m.
and 9p.m. Tickets are $2.50 at the
gloriously straightforward rendition
of Creedence Clearwater Revival's4
"Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" that
rivals the original in excellence (no
exaggeration). Also featured are a
folksy version of the Meat Puppets'
"Lost", a frenzie. runthrough of Blue
Oyster Cult's (??!!) "The Red and
the Black" which Hurley's frenetic
drumwork keeps motoring as
smoothly as a well-tuned V-6, and a
churning burning 26 second sonic
assault on the Urinals' "Ack Ack."
Closing out the album (and most
likely, their career as the Minutemen,
save for posthumous releases) is at
bizarre version of psychedelic mon-
ster Roky Erickson's "Bermuda,"
recorded over the phone and sounding
scratchier than a 4:00 am stubble.
This song is so fuzzy and the connec
tion so distant that it could have been
phoned in from the Great Beyond as a
last request from a fallen performer.
A spooky final note, to be sure.
Everything the Minutemen stood4
for can be summed up in the single
line of 3-Way's "Situations at Hand:"
there are still lofty dreams
meager desires, and still sillyness
The Minutemen were a band that
aimed high, yet managed to keep
their feet on the ground and thei sen-
se of humor about them. Those of yo
uninitiated in their musical magi
would do well to begin your collection
with 3-Way Tie for Last and then work
your way back, for to ignore this band
is to truly miss something special. IT
know I miss 'em already.
RUN FOR COVER!
The original cast is coming to save their school...
and it's open season on anyone who gets within range!
WARNER BROS. Presents A PAUL MASLANSKY PRODUCTION A JERRY PARIS Film
"POLICE ACADEMY 3: BACK IN TRAINING" Starring STEVE GUTTENBERG - BUBBA SMITH - DAVID GRAF
MICHAEL WINSLOW - MARION RAMSEY - LESLIE EASTERBROOK - ART METRANO - TIM KAZURINSKY
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT as Zed and GEORGE GAYNES as Cmdt. Lassard Music Composed by ROBERT FOLK
PG A sMSM Written by GENE QUINTANO Produce by PAUL MASLANSKY A RO WARNERCOBR~OuS.oa
.JU . WAY - WY Y S .mf oll p D irected by JRYPRS A WRNE .O.U...~~ v
&Vr w t% -ers r% AilRA A 1"1"'& A e. A
ANSWERS TO AUTO QUIZ
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call us collect at 425-5400
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ON CAMPUS MARCH 27. 1986!!
(Continued from Page7)
couldn't help seeing parallels to Mary:
Tyler Moore's past television work.4
When she starred in the Mary Tyler
Moore Show in the 70's, she set thes
role for the modern career womau
who worked in TV news. These#
characteristics all fit Sandy, while;
Mary plays the housewife who gavel
up a career for a family. Something
she admits to never regretting.
Perhaps this film was a kind odJ
catharsis for Moore because it deals,,
with a character she was typecasts
with for most of her career without,'I
her actually playing that character.
If you are looking for a film with;
good acting, beautiful photography,
and a plot both hilarious and sad, Just
Between Friends is well worth your
time and money.