Review – Harold And Maude (1971)
Teenager Harold Chasen, played by Bud Cort, is completely friendless, a loner by choice, neglected by his wealthy mother, and completely obsessed by the concept of death and dying. All his mother wants is for Harold to be normal. His only real interests are going to the funerals of complete strangers and faking his own elaborately staged suicides. Within the first 15 minutes, we see him hanging from the rafters, floating face down in the swimming pool and wrists slashed, covered in blood in the bathroom. Not the subject for a comedy you may think. But you’d be wrong. This is jet black comedy at it’s absolute best, with a real warmhearted streak running right the way through it.
Enter Maude, played by the brilliant Ruth Gordon. Maude is 79 years old, and the complete opposite of Harold. She loves life and lives it to the full. She also attends the funerals of complete strangers, as a kind of morbid hobby, and also has the habit of jumping into the first car which comes to hand, usually not her own, and swiping it.
It’s at one of these funerals that Harold and Maude meet. They slowly become friends, and gradually fall in love, all to the backdrop of the most amazing Cat Stevens soundtrack.
The relationship between these two odd, but delightful characters, would probably feel strange and slightly uncomfortable, in the hands of a lesser director, but with Hal Ashby in the chair, helped along nicely by a fantastic script penned by Colin Higgins, the whole thing is moving, profound and actually quite sweet.
Other movies directed by Ashby include, The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Coming Home (1978) and the Peter Sellers movie Being There (1980).
This is quite easily one of the most delightful, understated movies, about the joys of life i have ever seen. Both Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort have a wonderful chemistry, making their scenes together both believable, heartwarming and also quirky. Perfect casting in my humble opinion.
Harold and Maude was not well recieved upon it’s initial release in 1971, but over the years it has gained a major cult following. This movie has the word “cult” written all over it, and it’s a title that’s well deserved.
The real star of this film, for me though, was the soundtrack. The first time i watched it, was the first time I had heard the songs “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”, which by the way is a total earworm. I defy you to listen to that track, and not have it rattling around in your head for days after. Cat Stevens wrote these two tracks exclusively for the movie, and neither of them appear on any of his studio albums. My personal favourite was “I Think I See The Light, which i can’t stop listening to. I have to say that Cats Style and lyrics fit the film perfectly. This is one soundtrack i would dearly love to get hold of, but it’s now ultra rare, making it extremely difficult to come by.
To sum up i absolutely love Harold And Maude. I’ve seen it three or four times now, and it gets better with every viewing. I can only imaging how groundbreaking this movie was way back in 1971. If you’ve seen it before, watch it again, and if you haven’t seen it before, i urge you to seek it out and indulge yourself. I guarantee you won’t regret it. I also guarantee, you’ll come away from this wonderful movie, with a great big smile plastered all over your face, and that’s my promise to you. It may even become your new favourite film as it did with me…….