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Harold and Maude

 

This cult classic stars Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon and was released in 1971.  Cort plays Harold, a dead-pan disillusioned 20-year-old obsessed with suicide.  His fake attempts are wondrously staged.  Maude (Gordon) plays a fun-loving 80-year-old eccentric who lives in a side-tracked railroad car.  The two of them meet at a funeral for someone that neither one of them knows.  Maude steals a hearse parked at the funeral and offers Cort a ride (it is Harold's hearse) after the funeral and thus begins one of the most interesting love affairs ever to find its way onto film.

 

The script was originally the 20-minute long graduate thesis of UCLA student Colin Higgins who showed it to his landlady, wife of film producer Lewis.  Hal Ashby Directs.  The movie very effectively utilizes the music of Cat Stevens.

 

Other movies by Ashby include: Being There, Coming Home, Shampoo, The Last Detail.  Higgins also wrote the great screenplay for Silver Streak.  Ruth Gordon's career spanned four decades and includes: Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Inside Daisy Clover, Rosemary's Baby, Every Which Way But Loose,and My Bodyguard.  Bud Cort has made a number of movies both before and after this one including: MASH and The Chocolate War.

 

Using the theme of death, the movie is all about how to make life worth living.  It is a black comedy and is hilarious, if you get the joke…….otherwise it can be perceived as an ugly mess.  A love affair between these two odd balls????  Suicide attempts???  What is funny about that?   Everything!!

 

One of the most powerful and saving emotions is laughter.  It helps keep us healthy both emotionally and physically.  We can literally laugh our way out of illness!

 

What this movie tells us is that we can laugh about everything!  Nothing is sacred, nothing should be censored from our life long laugh track.

 

Maude steals cars and Harold questions her about this.  She explains that she is acting as a gentle reminder---"here today, gone tomorrow"---don't get attached to things.  Maude is creatively into the visual, the olfactory, the tactile---she is very sensual and observant.  She urges Harold to try something new each day.

 

Harold is into death and destruction---he not only goes to funerals but also to building demolitions and scrap metal wrecking yards.  Maude is the exact opposite.  She explains to Harold that life's sorrow is caused by the fact that each person is unique but allows himself or herself to be treated as if we were all the same.  The movie is very anti-establishment. 

 

Maude has been fighting the system all of her life.  On her arm is the same type of tattooed serial number that we see on Sophie's arm from the film Sophie's Choice.  However, Sophie and Maude are very different in how they got into the concentration camp and how they responded to that horrific experience after surviving it.

 

Maude feels that everyone should make music (both figuratively and literally) because it is "cosmic dust"---it touches us in ways that help us get in touch with our soul.  At the end we see Harold give up his hearse, give up his attachment to death, and wander off playing the banjo.  Maude has rescued him from himself---from his mobidity that began when his mother reacted in an artificial way to the inaccurate announcement of Harold's death after he blew up his school's chemistry lab.

 

 

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