Friday, January 19, 2007

HAROLD AND MAUDE


Romance of the week:
HAROLD AND MAUDE

The term "quirky" must have been created to describe this film. This romance, between the most mismatched couple in film history, is both warm and touching and just a little creepy.

Harold is an anti-establishment teenager (even if he doesn’t realize it yet), living in a decided pro-establishment family. His parents don’t understand him, and to get attention, stages his own suicide, over and over again, in sometimes very elaborate ways. He is fascinated by death. He would actually go through with the suicide except that he’s too busy being fascinated by it. I mean, he goes to funerals – even people he doesn’t know. That’s where he meets Maude.

Maude is also fascinated by death, but for a different reason. She 80 years old, and as such, death looms over her head. They meet, they connect, and thus begins a deep friendship the likes of which Harold has never experienced.

There are lots of very funny scenes, you know – the usual stuff. She teaches him that life is worth living, and he teaches her that life still hold some surprises. Like I said – the usual stuff. This film was released in 1971 - right smack dab in the hippie era. The movie does have an anti-establishment feel to it (although that’s not the main message of the film), and it has a sort of flower-child innocence to it, which has a tendency to impart to its viewer, a warm fuzzy feeling.

Although the movie wasn’t a huge success (it wasn’t a major Hollywood studio release), it played the college and art house theaters for years and achieved cult status. When it was released on video, it enjoyed even more success as regular viewers would buy or rent the movie to watch year after year (a common Valentine’s Day tradition). The movie is funny, but the humor is tongue-in-cheek or deadpan and was undoubtedly a later influence to the Coen Brothers, whose Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou have a similar deadpan humor.

It scores a 90% on the tomatometer. Here’re some reasons why YOU might like this film.

  1. You’re probably thinking, “He’s a teenager (18? 19? Maybe 20?), and she’s 80. EEEYYYEWW!” I assure you that it’s not what you think. It’s all tasteful and appropriate, with a very low “yyyuck” factor. …. A reasonably low yyyuck factor. Not as high a yyyuck factor as there could be. Maybe slight yyyuck, but tolerable. I'll stop here.
  2. It’s all warm and life-affirming and stuff, and will make you feel good. It won’t make you feel, at all, like throwing up – and that’s a good thing.
  3. Did I mention that it was funny? Funny and sad – but mostly funny.
  4. It espouses positive social values, like: sticking it to the Man; stealing cars; and flippin’ off the cops. Maude’s 80, so it’s socially acceptable.
  5. Maude’s 80 – how long can she live. Harold will be out chasing more age-appropriate girls (maybe only twice his age) in no time.
  6. This really pisses off Harold’s parents. I don’t understand their problem. I mean, it’s not like he’s likely to knock her up or anything.
  7. Ruth Gordon (Maude) is one cool old lady.
  8. The director, Hal Ashby, is no slouch. He also directed such classics as The Last Detail, Coming Home, and Being There which I’ve recommended in the past.
  9. You have to wonder if he’s planning to take her to the prom.
  10. Oh! You young couples are soooooo cute together!

Valentine’s Day is coming soon.
Enjoy.


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