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Harold and Maude (Criterion) (1971)

Cast: Ruth Gordon, Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, more...
Director: Hal Ashby, Hal Ashby
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Comedies, Cult, Black Comedy, Camp, Coming of Age , Dysfunctional Families, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 91 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

A young man with a death wish and a 79-year-old high on life find love in Hal Ashby's cult black comedy. Deadpan rich boy Harold (Bud Cort) keeps staging elaborate suicide tableaux to get the attention of his mother (Vivian Pickles), but she keeps planning his brilliant future for him instead. Obsessed with the trappings of death, Harold freaks out his blind dates, modifies his new sports car to look like a mini-hearse, and attends funerals, where he meets the spirited Maude (Ruth Gordon). An eccentric to the core, Maude lives exactly as she pleases, with avid collecting and nude modeling among her many pursuits. To the disgust of Harold's relatives and the befuddlement of Harold's shrink, Harold falls in love with her. As lilting Cat Stevens tunes play on the soundtrack, Maude teaches Harold a valuable lesson about making the most of his time on earth. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

classic, maybe too classic by llxx March 9, 2005 - 10:53 AM PST
2 out of 18 members found this review helpful
This was actually quite a good movie in many ways, with good performance and script. However, the incessant Cat Stevens soundtrack is almost unbearable - the only soundtrack close to being this bad is that of The Big Lebowski. The music doesn't even have anything to do with the action taking place on the screen - it just seems that they were going to play a whole Cat Stevens album come hell or high water, so during every pause in dialog, you have to listen to a load of hippie drivel. My advice: do see this movie, it's worth watching. However, have a cd player with something decent on pause, and have the mute button on the TV ready. Swap out the soundtrack where appropriate. When finished, be sincerely thankful that the 70s are over.

goth before there was goth by alexjb March 1, 2005 - 9:54 PM PST
2 out of 10 members found this review helpful
i agree with the other reviewer- you should see this movie, just for completeness sake :)

there's lots about it that's kinda corny or hokey, and there's plenty of camp. but it's endearing and will give you a smile at the end.

the first thing that occurred to me was that harold might actually be the first Goth kid! clues: 1. he's 19, but looks 15; 2. he's obsessed with death; 3. super underweight; 4. prone to melodramatic displays, but otherwise totally softspoken.

oh yeah, and there's perhaps the coolest modded jaguar you've ever seen!

The Embarrassing Side of the 70s by dwhudson March 23, 2002 - 5:40 AM PST
20 out of 35 members found this review helpful
First things first. You dohave to see this movie at some point in your life. It's just one of those required viewing lessons in social history. No way around it. As the blurb mentions, this was standard "midnight movie" fare for a good ten years after its release. At least.

Second, no bones about it, both Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort are terrific. The movie was a blessing for Gordon, whose earlier career had previously been pretty much forgotten. Without Harold and Maude, she probably wouldn't have got the book deal that eventually followed, her memoirs in which she utters one of the most important pieces of advice you'll ever hear: "Keep your bowels moving."

Unfortunately, the movie was something of a curse for poor Bud Cort. No one could ever look at those ET-like eyes again without thinking: Harold. Very tough for him to get cast in any other role, and sadly, he was last seen in Wim Wenders's pathetic Million Dollar Hotel.

Then, the movie didlaunch the directing career of Hal Ashby, an editor who directed this, his first feature, at the age of 42. He'd later give us far better work such as Shampoo, Bound for Gloryand his masterpiece, Being There.

Ashby's flower child background is written all over this movie. If the 70s were all about digesting the radical break of the 60s (arguable, but go with it), what we have here is an amalgam of all the gooshy stuff released by that break. This movie is a prime example of why the 70s for many was the "Me Decade." When I saw it way back when, I must have been about Harold's age, but I'd regale my friends who loved the movie with my own version of Harold and Maude's leitmotif, "If you wanna sing out, sing out," in which I merely extended the logic: "If you wanna rape dogs, rape dogs."

You can't argue with the gist of the movie, of course: Life is good. Get out there and enjoy it. The problem is, though it tackles such essential existential questions (remember, Sartre and Camus were still all the rage), its simplistic approach is truly embarrassing 30 years on. Free love: good, military: bad, and so on. Stylistically, it's impossible not to look at those washed-out colors, long lens shots, all underlaid with Cat Stevens's quintessential goofy-hippie soundtrack without realizing that you're looking at a remarkable relic of a now-very-distant past. And good riddance.

Watch it with that in mind and it's gotta be a kick.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.75)
1301 Votes
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