Thursday, February 20, 2014

258 of 1001 Movies: Harold and Maude (1971)

After looking up the summary to Harold and Maude I thought to myself that it looks like a movie I could get into. It's indie, it's got weird characters, a cool soundtrack, and the theme of the movie tackles subjects that make people uneasy. For more it might be the relationship age difference that makes you uneasy, but the movie deals with the unpopular topic of death as well. I don't even know why more people aren't watching this movie. It's a classic from the 70's that deserves attention.

Summary: Harold is young and rich, but he is also obsessed with death. He constantly is staging suicides in front of his mother, but even she has grown use to his fascination. His mother now is thinking that maybe Harold should just grow up, so while she arranges for him to see a psychologist she also sets up dates for him, and time with his uncle who is in the army. The person who will change Harold though is one he meets at a funeral. Maude has the same funeral attending hobby that Harold does, and this draws them closer, but Maude also believes in living life at it's fullest something Harold hasn't acquired.

Acting: I haven't heard of these actors doing too much before or after their roles in this movie. I'm not sure why considering both were really good. Bud Cort is Harold, and Cort is really suiting as Harold. It was said that he had turned down roles in fear of being typecast yet took a role that was just as typecast as any. Cort seems to really become Harold. I'm not sure how he acts in real life, but everything from his speech to the way he interacts is filled with his impending awareness of death. Maude is portrayed by Ruth Gordon, and I couldn't imagine Maude being any other way than the way that Gordon brings her to life. She is crazy and you can tell the actress is having a lot of fun being her. Unlike many couples with vast age differences you can also feel the chemistry between them as well.

Filming: This movie was made in the 70's, so in a lot of ways the shots do reflect that 70's vibe you get with movies, but the message and moments in the movie feel like they still go past that time, and become relevant even today. The music also is a pop folk arrangement by Cat Stevens, and Stevens just seems really suited to the whole outlook and vibe of the movie. Hal Ashby contrasts the dark nature of Harold's fascination with the death, and brings it to life in a world where Maude is encouraging him to live, and it plays out really beautifully.

Plot: There isn't ever a moment that the story doesn't leave you wondering how Harold will end up. For the most part Maude's fate is quite obvious, even to her. She is almost 80, and she has accepted the fate she knows is nearing her. Harold though seems to like to pretend to be dead a lot, but the concept of death is one he discovers he isn't so welcoming toward once he begins getting to know Maude. For some reason I found Harold's perception easy to relate to. His reasoning for what drove him to be interested in death as well makes a lot of sense as well. It isn't driven by wanting death but more seeing his mother express feelings he wishes she showed more for him. The story just becomes very real and sweet as the story grows.

Harold and Maude is an odd romantic, but perhaps one of the best from the 70's I've watched. The characters seem real, and both sides have something that you can relate to or motivate you. They aren't made out to be perfect people, but people learning to accept who they are and their circumstance in the world.

Rating 9 of 10.

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