American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
In one of my several reviews of the "Up" documentaries, I referred to the series as the noblest project in cinema history. I am older now and might refrain from such hyperbole. But we are all older now, and this series proves it in a most deeply moving way.
You know the premise. In 1964, British TV produced a film titled "7 Up," which focused on the lives, hopes and expectations of 14 children. They tended to sort out into upper and working classes. One unspoken question was whether the British class system was fading away.
Every seven years since then, the series has revisited as many of the original 14 who have agreed to continue to participate. Now here is the eighth film, "56 Up." Remarkably, all 14 are still alive. Michael Apted, now a major British director, was a researcher on the first film, took over as director with "14 Up," and has continued ever since. These people are all bonded through the continuity of this remarkable idea, although it's clear here that some of the participants consider this form of fame a mixed blessing.
In the U.K., their faces are well known. Consider Tony (no family names are given). As a kid we saw him working as a groom in a racing stable. Later, he had a brief career as a jockey. When that didn't work out, he "started on the Knowledge," which is what London cabbies call the long process of memorizing more or less every street or landmark in London. The rest of his life he has driven a taxi.