Harold and Maude, A Love Story
It is daddy-daughter time, so I pick today’s cult classic. I selected it especially for her. She is cool enough to get it, plus, little does she know, she will shed a few tears (she hates that). Maybe I should warn her, but anyway, I push play, and Harold and Maude begins.
Harold and Maude
The film stars Bud Cort as the 20-year old Harold, a disillusioned young man obsessed with death. His humor is dark and delivered with perfect deadpan expressions. His uptight society mother attempts to fit Harold into her world, but he prefers to ignore her. He uses various fake suicides in an attempt to rattle her. Unfortunately, she has seen it too many times and barely blinks an eye.
There is a battle of wills between the two. His mother finds him computer dates which he promptly scares off. He buys a hearse. She responds by giving him a Jaguar. He customizes the two cars into the coolest Jag/Hearse hybrid. She tries to enlist him in the military. He plots to avoid it.
We meet his one-armed uncle, General Victor Ball, who salutes with a specially designed sleeve device. The character is a direct shot at the ridiculousness of war, the mindless belief in a government out of touch with the youth of the country. The director Hal Ashby was a prolific marijuana user, vegetarian and long-haired hippy who opposed these views.
The vivacious Ruth Gordon plays Harold’s polar opposite. She is the hilarious 79-year old Maude who loves the cycle of life. You soon see Maude lives it to the fullest. Oddly, she also attends the funerals of strangers. It is these funerals were the two worlds collide in comic proportions. (the film is number 45 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Funniest Movies of all Time). She first meets Harold and tells him that they will be great friends. The skeptical Harold is not so convinced. It takes Maude stealing his car and then asking him if he wants a ride to start their unusual friendship.
Their time together includes grand theft auto, a police chase and rescuing trees from the city sidewalks. Maude uses music, art, wisdom and most importantly friendship to teach Harold the preciousness of life. She brings Harold out of his dark world. Their time together eventually leads to a taboo love affair. All backed perfectly by a Cat Stevens (now Yosuf Islam) soundtrack. The song “If you want to sing out” will stay in your head.
Audiences and critics did not well receive Harold and Maude in 1971. The black-comedy eventually gains a word-of-mouth following to become a cult classic. It took 12 years, but it started profiting in 1983. It is difficult for me to understand why it took so long. Well, maybe it takes time to find an enlightened audience to appreciate it. It is a great film that I highly recommend. And for my daughter, she is enlightened and pissed at me because I made her cry.