Title: Harold and Maude (1971)
Director: Hal Ashby
Notable Actors: Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort
Harold and Maude was actually first recommended to me by a good friend of mine. He loved it, but his wife told me not to bother. I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did. It is a very strange movie, but kind of refreshing in its oddity. I quite liked the characterization of the two leads, especially Maude. Ruth Gordon did an excellent job with her character, who is an erratic old lady who steals cars and demands to live in the moment. She changes the life of the morbid Harold when they meet at a funeral.
Now, this isn't strictly about this movie, but look at these pictures! Ruth Gordon was truly beautiful when younger, and she certainly aged well, which you can see in the film. I found these two pictures of her, and she looks so stunning and classic I had to share them. The top picture made me think of a Gatsby (see F. Scott Fitzgerald's immortal The Great Gatsby) girl, while the bottom picture made me think of Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (a movie you really have to see - so beautiful) or Greta Garbo in Camille, one of her best roles.
OK, now back to the movie at hand. I have already mentioned that it is a strange film, but just because something is strange does not mean it is bad (just think of Van Gogh. It is decidedly strange to cut off your own ear in order to study it better, but I'm sure anyone in the world could find at least one of his paintings beautiful). In this movie, the strangeness works most of the time. Harold has a penchant for pretending to kill himself, which can be quite funny, especially the scene with an actress his mother has set him up with who jumps right into character playing opposite the dead man. However, it can also be humourless and gets a little redundant after a while.
Nevertheless, the story, pulled so tautly between life and death, is an intriguing one. Indeed, a quick fun fact about Harold and Maude: the screenwriter Colin Higgins took this story from the thesis he wrote in order to complete his schooling at UCLA. This is particularly encouraging to me as I am entrenched within my own thesis writing process. Actually, I am entrenched in thesis proposal writing process (which I hope to defend in less than two weeks). See, theses are good for something after having been written.
This movie is a fun sort of romp through the early seventies. It is interesting to see how the culture of that day influenced this film, from the clothing to the ideology. In fact, a song that provides a common thread throughout the movie is Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out" (which you can go here: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha3Rm4MSX-g to hear if you aren't familiar with this song).
The movie moves from a bildungsroman (coming of age tale) about Harold to Maude's emphasis on when she is going to pass, she repeatedly says that eighty is the best age to die. Harold has now fallen in love with the fifty-years-his-senior woman, and they share an almost poetic but, of course, disturbing kiss. Apart from the awkward age difference between Harold and Maude the kiss does point to the beautiful cyclic nature of life, which is particularly fitting in light of how the film ends.
Harold and Maude is a strange film and probably isn't for everyone (which is why it has won the "cult" label), but I think it is worth at least a renting. Also, I have some exciting news that I can't help but share it: I am going to a comic book club on Thursday night! Jealous? You should be. I'll let you know how it goes on Friday. Until next time; go enjoy some art!