Saturday, January 26, 2013

56 Up, Let My People Go!

56 Up
Let My People Go!

Every seven years, I can tell you the best documentary of the year before I see it. Michael Apted's "Up" series, which began with a public television program interviewing fourteen British seven-year-olds in 1964 and has followed up with them every seven years since, finds our friends at age 56, and has by now become one of the handful of most important projects in film history, an endlessly fascinating (and I must say delightful) exploration of life, aging, hope, fear, ambition, achievement, love, contentment and heartache.

Like a kaleidoscope, no two people see it exactly the same way. To me, it shows the importance of loving companionship, attainable goals, and simple good luck (not least in the birth lottery) in happiness. As always, Apted uses footage from each of the previous installments, so newcomers can walk right in. "56 Up" runs a bit under three hours but feels like one.

By contrast, the cloying, unfunny "Let My People Go!", about Reuben, a French-Jewish mailman who lives with his boyfriend Teemu in Finland, runs an hour and a half but feels like three. Director Mikael Buch contrasts the Candy Land-colored streets of Reuben's Finnish burg with his sad-sack hard luck, but Reuben's such a whiny, mopey, floppy character, we can never root for him. And the movie never finds a tone, careening from borderline-offensive bits about an aerosol spray that makes Goyim Jewish to a creepy older attorney who mistakes Reuben's urgent pleas for legal counsel as invitations to S & M sex games. Here's yet another movie that mistakes manic noisemaking for humor.

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