Monday, September 18, 2006


The cult classic, Harold and Maude is unlike any other film in two major respects. For one thing, it involves a unlikely love story between a 79 year old woman and a 20 year old man-child. Secondly, it makes light of death-in a darkly hilarious way. While those two things may turn many people off at first glance, I highly recommend that everyone see it at least once. In my opinion, it is one of the most revealing, delightful, and profoundly sweet movies I have the pleasure to own.

Harold is a wealthy heir, just out of school who is less than impressed with life. He has a deep fascination with death-bordering on obsession- and he drives a hearse. His only joy is derived from visiting funerals and playing pranks on his mother by staging his own macabre end. These pranks are twisted and wierd but also somehow unsettlingly funny. His mother pays him no mind, no doubt assuming that her son is going through a harmless phase of some sort. She attempts, throughout the film, to set up fruitless dates for him-hoping he will eventually warm up to the idea of a companion with which to share his vast fortune. While visiting one of his beloved funerals, Harold comes across free spirit Maude-a 79 year old sprite of a woman with a lust for life. To Maude, the world is a playground and death is just its exciting conclusion. She herself hangs out at the funerals to reaffirm her own happy existence and pays no heed to rhyme or reason in her attempt at living life to its fullest. Harold is instantly drawn to her and the two of them develop a deep friendship that seems only natural under their respective circumstances. The love that ensues is strange but still absolutely believeable.

Bud Cort is a face worth remembering. His huge almost 'bugged' eyes are full of character and feeling. His lanky frame and quirky clothing only add to his appeal as the film's oddball of a hero. Ruth Gordon is the star of the movie though, make no mistake. There is no doubt that the woman was a phenomenal presence in every film she graced (I can distinctly remember her playing a very Maude-like character in the underrated teen flick-My Bodyguard). But as Maude, she's more than a presence; she's a downright inspiration. It is her sweet outlook ('I'd like to be a sunflower') that makes the movie so delightful, despite the blanket synopsis. She flits around the screen like some type of nymph, bringing to Harold a new opinion of life that remains with him even through the film's bittersweet conclusion.

Hal Ashby took on a huge challenge by directing this as his first film. He was an oscar winning film editor prior to this picture, and choosing such a strange black comedy for his first attempt at directing, was needless to say-a probable jump at failure. But he pulls it off brilliantly. The direction is superb throughout. The flow from Harold's dark and dreery mansion to Maude's luminous walks in the sun are virtually seamless. Cat Steven's upbeat music also lends a measure of harmony and lyricism to the whole experience. It's evident that Wes Anderson (who directed current cult classics 'Rushmore' and 'The Royal Tenenbaums' ) was heavily influenced by this particular film.

There are aspects of this movie that would probably warrant it having a 'pg13' rating today. Some of Harold's 'pranks' are a bit violent and some sexual activity is 'alluded' to in one scene. But thankfully, it doesnt dwell on the immorality for a significant ammount of time nor does it take itself very seriously at any given point. You must use your own discretion when approaching this subject matter, I suppose.

But, I'll just close by saying-I highly recommend it as both a love story and a wildly entertaining piece of film history.

My rating: 9/10


Blogger Jodialamodi said...

Love Harold & Maude!! Couldn't have said it better myself. You summed it up most succinctly! I tend to ramble, & would've rambled in an attempt to describe that film.

2:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home