Harold and Maude (1971)


Hal Ashby directs Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon and Vivian Pickles in this romance between a quiet young rich man obsessed with death and a vibrant old lady who has lived life her own way.

Popping with quirk and charm this is a lovely little gem. Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, perfect casting, the wonderfully grim fake suicides Harold inflicts on his mother (and us), the constantly dotty bad behaviour of his geriatric new flame Maude. There’s a lot to adore, Wes Anderson clearly did… the DNA of the film is a near perfect match to his oeuvre. The modern hip wunderkind has yet to have such a poignant edit comparing a field of unique daisies to the uniform white gravestones of the war dead though. Pretty brave for a studio film made in Vietnam era 1971. Having said all that praise Harold and Maude is often a slight, trite, predictable experience. The script feels like a first draft of a potential classic rather than the polished and gift wrapped item the amazing leads and the rest of the film crew make it. There’s an obvious blind adherence of the rule of three that means we, the viewer, often get blugeoned by the same sequences on the third run. If Harold fakes a death in front of a blind date once then we have to see two more variations later. If Maude bamboozles a cop hilariously in the first act then expect to see it again and again. I won’t be hypocritical and give a third example. That deadening repetition holds this beautiful little oddity back from greatness. Still for a film with one foot in the grave it is remarkably uplifting in its message.


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