Harold and Maude is about a young man (Bud Cort) who likes to stage fake suicides and attend funerals. At one of these funerals he meets a 79-year-old woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon) and they develop an interesting romantic relationship as they go on adventures together.
Now let me explain.
Harold and Maude did not do well in theaters at the time (probably because of that very summary), however, possibly gave birth to the concept of a cult film. It’s Hal Ashby’s quirkiness and characters that make this movie amazing. We are first introduced to Harold in the opening scene where he is preparing to hang himself, however the camera only shows him from the waist down, so the audience is in shock when he kicks out the chair and remains hanging. Subsequently, the mother sees him hanging there, and sits down and tells him to get ready for dinner in the film’s first comical moment. This scene successfully sets the tone for the film; dark, but not without humor seeping through the cracks.
Hall Ashby’s directing was simply fantastic. Wes Anderson cites him as an influence and I completely understand why. The symmetry (and asymmetry) of his shots, as seen above, is very similar, along with the themes of forbidden love and not fitting in. Both directors accomplish a similar task in that the characters initially seem extremely strange, however by the end of the movie, they seem like the only normal people in their world.
The characters seem, in many ways to save each other. Maude comes into Harold’s life and shows him how to live, while Harold comes into Maude’s life and shows her how to die. Maude gives Harold justification for being free spirited and teaches him to take risks (“If you want to sing out, sing out” was written by Cat Stevens specifically for the movie). Harold, on the other hand, gives Maude a burst of youth and something to love late in her life.
This is a movie that stands the test of time better than other 70’s movies. Every time I watch it, I appreciate the beauty and writing of it more. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who appreciates film, eccentricity, and love.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%