I wanted to write something about Michael Apted, the magnificent director of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and the “Up” series, and many other things. He died on Friday at age 79. A year and a half ago, Trudie Styler invited me to a screening downtown of “Moving the Mountain,” and I was honored to spend a little time with Michael, and Trudie, and heard them reminisce about that experience. You can read that here.
Trudie has posted a remembrance to Instagram which I am copying here, below. She and Sting remained close friends with Michael the last 35 years. As for me, when I saw “21 Up,” I was floored. I went back and watched the first two installments and kept up with the series, always anxious for more. Those kids were only one or two years older than me. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is one of the great films of all time. Loretta Lynn was already a legend and just 49 when that movie came out. (She seemed so old!) And she’s still with us, thank goodness, 11 years older than Michael.
Michael Apted was the rare filmmaker– like the late Jonathan Demme and Spike Lee– who could move back and forth between documentary and narrative filmmaking. It’s like being ambidextrous. He leaves a huge legacy and also a hole in the world of cinema.
Here’s what Trudie — always articulate and brilliant – has to say:
“I first met Michael in 1985 when he shot the documentary Bring on the Night with Sting, which included a scene of me giving birth to my son Jake— Not surprisingly we had a special bond after that.
A few years later I asked him if he would make a film with me about the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, a documentary based on the autobiography of Li Lu who was one of the leaders of the student protest in China.
As an interviewer, Michael was an amazing listener. He engaged intellectually and emotionally with his subject, and the depth of his listening somehow brought out the profoundest truth. One of the reasons I’m sure that Moving the Mountain was such a lauded movie was that he brought together for the first time the group of student leaders, and gave them the space to explore their trauma, their survivor guilt, their pain. Their roles in Chinese history were suddenly enclosed within four walls on another continent, and it was almost too much to bear. Michael’s films were powerful and curious and ultimately told us truths about ourselves. We have lost a great artist, a great thinker, a great director. And Sting and I have lost a beloved friend.”
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