Michael Apted, who died Thursday at the age of 79, was the kind of solid filmmaker, starting in England and eventually taken over by Hollywood. In a zigzagging career from docus on Sting to the Tiananmen protests, from Narnia World – Odyssey of the Dawn Treader (2010), the third installment of the fantasy saga – to episodes of the HBO peplum Rome, her signature was a predilection for social facts and female characters. This angle took shape with his television career, where he directed the documentary-river Up : it is a question of following every seven years the life of fourteen Britons from their childhood, from 1964. This ancestor of Boyhood by Richard Linklater wanted to show class determinism in the UK by selecting people from opposing social backgrounds, well-off and popular – no surprise, everyone stays in their place over the years. Apted will continue the experience without fail until 2019, when its participants are 63 years old and the sociological pitch has turned into a meditation on time. Apted is able to be just as honest about the prejudices of British society as his own: “I wanted to make a nasty movie about these kids who have everything, and the others who have nothing.»The participants of Up will also criticize the screen for underestimating their possibilities and intelligence.
Reputation as a sensitive filmmaker
Apted redeems itself on the big screen by filming leading women: Agatha (1979) is a portrait of Agatha Christie during her mysterious disappearance for eleven days in 1926, never really elucidated; Nashville Lady (1980) is a nice biopic of country singer Loretta Lynn, played by Sissy Spacek (who won an Oscar for the role); Gorillas in the mist (1988) depicts the tragic fight of the primatologist Dian Fossey (in the guise of Sigourney Weaver) for the protection of gorillas in Rwanda. Good intentions have mixed effects. In Nell (1994), the number of Jodie Foster, as a wild woman-child inventing her own language à la Poto and Cabengo, is quite painful. Against a background of Sioux culture, Thunder heart (1992) is a competent thriller, echoing Apted’s own documentary released that same year, Incident in Oglala, on the 1975 murder of two FBI agents on the same Indian reservation where the feature film was shot.
It is on the strength of this reputation as a sensitive filmmaker that Apted will be recruited to shoot a James Bond, The world is not enough (1999), where the bedroom scenes are more successful than the usual chases and explosions. Another underestimated woman in the person of Sophie Marceau who makes a bad party there: her desires for world domination and torture have a delicious fragrance camp under the guise of Stockholm syndrome. It is also via Scandinavia that the cinematographic vocation of Apted came, impressed by wild strawberries Ingmar Bergman when he was a teenager. His final feature film, the spy film Conspiracy (2017) came full circle with the Swedish Noomi Rapace as a CIA agent who is taken for an apple.