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Alvy

Harold and Maude

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Alvy   

I am very glad I decided to snap up the opportunity to buy Harold and Maude on DVD at a knockdown price this weekend.

I have seen it before, and I loved it, but this time it hit me deeper. Perhaps because I embrace difference and diversity a lot more now than when I first saw it. Also because sometimes I, like Harold, am scared of life, and Harold and Maude is a real life-affirming movie. I like movies about vulnerable people, movies in which I can see little reflections of myself. Movies that challenge me to stop existing and to really live.

I can't get those final few images out of my mind now, nor the Cat Stevens song the film ends with. (Can't remember the words now, but the beautiful harmonies keep running through my head.) I can see Harold and Maude climbing onto my top ten someday soon.

Anyone else want to chime in with their thoughts on this precious movie?

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Ron Reed   

An all-time favourite of mine. I think I've seen it more times than any other film - and all but one of those viewings in the theatre, back in the late seventies and early eighties when it seemed to be in constant rotation at the revival theatres.

Where did you find the cheap DVD? I'd love to pick one up myself.

That final song (as well as a few others from the film) is available on Cat Stevens "Footsteps In The Dark: Greatest Hits Volume Two." Wonderful, wonderful.

Here's something I wrote about the film last fall.

HAROLD & MAUDE (1971, USA)

A defining picture for me, at the time. It gave expression to so much that was important in my life. I didn't see it until 1979 or so, at a revival house, and in the next few years saw it quite a few more times (in an era before video rentals). I took kids from my church youth group (I was a youth pastor, of sorts, for a couple years), and we'd talk endlessly about freedom in Christ, about taking hold of life instead of giving in to a culture of death, and about all the funny stuff. It became kind of a litmus test for new girlfriends (two

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M. Leary   

Have you read Darren Hughes great work on Hal Ashby at www.sensesofcinema.com? He has some great commentary on Harold and Maude in that piece.

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Thom   

Let's make this a bit easier...

SencesofCinema

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Alvy   

Thanks, ya'll.

Ron, you talk about a "free love" element of the film. To what are you referring? Harold and Maude's relationship is unconventional, certainly, but I never saw it as being about "free love". Do you see the central characters' relationship as morally wrong?

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Alvy   

Should we make it easier still?

Hal Ashby by Darren Hughes

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Alvy   

spoilers1.gif

(Dunno whether this really counts as a spoiler, but I want a clean record, and I ain't takin' no chances! biggrin.gif)

From Hughes's article:

And Ashby's is, most certainly, an adult world. When, two-thirds of the way through the film, we learn that Maude is a Holocaust survivor – and we learn this only from a wordless, one-second shot of the identification tattoo on her forearm – the context within which the film is operating suddenly blossoms to include not only Nixon's America but all of the impossibly tragic 20th century. Like Walter Benjamin who, in his famous description of Paul Klee's “Angelus Novus” imagines the angel of history propelled irresistibly forward by the storm of progress “while the pile of debris before him grows skyward”, Harold and Maude demands that viewers experience a glimpse of hope despite the tragedies of the past ... Ashby accomplishes this to best effect in the final sequence, in which he dismantles and intercuts three events: Harold and Maude's arrival at the hospital, Harold's agonising wait for news of her death, and his high-speed drive up the California coastline. Accompanied only by Cat Stevens' song “Trouble” and by the roaring engine of Harold's Jaguar-cum-hearse, the sequence is marked by a tragic inevitability. There's no question of Maude's survival, no possibility that this dark fable will be appended with a Disney ending and yet, despite the sadness, Harold walks away in the end strumming his banjo, and the film is rescued from the nihilism of its day.

I only noticed the Holocaust reference when I saw the film for about the third time recently. I am not sure whether I simply didn't notice the shot of the tattoo the first couple of times, or I just didn't realize what it meant. This passing detail adds a whole new layer of meaning to the film.

Edited by Alvy

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Ron Reed   

Ron, you talk about a "free love" element of the film. To what are you referring? Harold and Maude's relationship is unconventional, certainly, but I never saw it as being about "free love". Do you see the central characters' relationship as morally wrong?

spoilers1.gif

Well, they do sleep together. I have my qualms about that. The film's not about free love, but it certainly includes that without missing a beat.

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Alvy   

Isn't that just cinematic shorthand for entering into a relationship? To me, that's potentially about love, commitment, faithfulness and monogamy as it much as it's (potentially) about "free love". Does the film say much either way?

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Ron Reed   
Isn't that just cinematic shorthand for entering into a relationship? To me, that's potentially about love, commitment, faithfulness and monogamy as it much as it's (potentially) about "free love". Does the film say much either way?

spoilers1.gif

I'm pretty certain the film maker figured it was part of Harold's "awakening" - do drugs together, have sex, it's all part of being free, man!

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't deeply offended. Sex is everywhere in the movies, and I simply don't expect most people to share my moral positions on things. It really doesn't bother me a lot. (Though I will say I find it hard to think that this film intends to suggest that the night in the sack is the beginning of "commitment, faithfulness and monogamy" - I mean, spoilers1.gif , she knows good and well she's going to be dead in a little while anyhow. No, I very much see it as part and parcel of all the other trappings of that particular zeitgeist - anti-military-industrial complex, pro-drugs and "free love," free expression, "do your own thing," all that.

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Darren H   

Since you all were kind enough to link to my piece, let me just say that, if you haven't done so before, spend some time with Ashby's other films. I'm toying with the idea of writing a booklength study of his life and work, and there aren't many filmmakers to whom I would be willing to devote that much time and energy.

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SZPT   

Funny this thread should pop up now. A local independent theatre will be showing Harold and Maude just around my birthday as part of their Midnight Movie series. I've never seen it (::gasp:: I know, but in my defense it came out a couple of years before I was even born), but now I plan to from what little I've read here - and in the theatre, no less. Then I'll come back and read more in depth past the "spoilers" omens, and hopefully contribute.

For the 2 or 3 of you in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, it will be showing at the Inwood on June 4 & 5.

As is Chaplin's Modern Times on June 18 & 19, and...

wait for it...

Top Secret! on July 9 & 10.

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

We just rewatched this; my wife tells me she read somewhere that someone said this was the sole convincing love story of the twentieth century. She can't remember where she read this. Does anyone remember reading this?

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas
We just rewatched this; my wife tells me she read somewhere that someone said this was the sole convincing love story of the twentieth century. She can't remember where she read this. Does anyone remember reading this?

Answering my own question, we had it wrong. It was in a blurb from some critic or another about Nabokov's Lolita!

Way, way off.

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DanBuck   

I caught this recently and I couldn't help but feel some conenctions to the recent Garden State. I'm not comparing the films in terms of overall quality, but it seems that both films address the anti-establishment teen who has to figure out that the artiface of society doesn't justify a withdrawl from life. Ghost World does the same thing. This film is timeless because I think so many teens and post-teens experience this distrust of institutional society, but they must all find their place within it. I imagine films like this will be made for a long time.

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Ron Reed   
I caught this recently and I couldn't help but feel some conenctions to the recent Garden State.  ..

I saw the films in the reverse order, but had the same reaction: both are "free spirit loosens up the detached-from-life guy, in the context of death and funerals." And it sounds like GS has struck a similar chord among twenty-somethings at H&M did in its day. (Even the soundtracks have similarities, a kind of alt-folk acoustic angsty thing going on.)

I'm with you, Danny Boy!

(Did you know HAROLD & MAUDE is also a play?)

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DanBuck   
I caught this recently and I couldn't help but feel some conenctions to the recent Garden State.

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Ron Reed   
(Did you know HAROLD & MAUDE is also a play?)

But no, I didn't know. Ever done it?

Nope. But I have a copy.

I'd do it at Pacific Theatre if the cast weren't so darn big.

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Ron Reed   
Oh right!  you have a small space, no?  What's the largest piece you've done?

It's not so much the size of the stage as the size of the payroll. With 9M and 8W at $500+ a week, our normal three week rehearsal / four week run would cost, oh, seventy thousand bucks? Just for the cast? With the rest of production expenses and only 120 seats to sell, five shows a week, I'd have to double my ticket prices and sell out the entire run. The cold equations.

Of course, this does raise the possibility of staging it as an emerging artist / community production, which we do about once a year. Hmmmm.... I've got the PERFECT actress for Maude, though I'd have to pay her Equity. But that I can afford. Hmmm.....

Wonder how you'd do the scene where they drive the sportscar off the cliff? Maybe stage size does matter after all....

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Ron Reed   

Oh, your question. Biggest show we've done? Community show, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU. Professional show, SHADOWLANDS, which we just closed: only half the actors were paid (Equity scale), the others were apprentices and community actors, we almost completely sold it out and only lost $7500.

Ah, theatre.

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DanBuck   

Ouch.

Well you'll be glad to know that my play is nicely trimmed to 5M 4F. I have some actors that appear in video footage, but Art Within has already agreed to put together a video package to go with production rights.

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Ron Reed   
Well you'll be glad to know that my play is nicely trimmed to 5M 4F. 

Glad? Only if you think I've been looking for an excuse not to produce it! cool.gif

I fear that's way too big for us. Unless it's possible for an Emerging Artist showcase. (My play A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR has a cast about that size, and we're closing next season with it. But it's only doable because most of the roles can be played by twenty-somethings. Yours?)

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DanBuck   

Let me think...

M - late 20-'s - must have thinning hair

M- late 20's - attractive

F - mid-late 20's - attractive

M - 70's

M- 50's

M - any age - adult

F- 19-21

F- 30-45

Hey wait that's only 5m and 3F - even smaller than I remembered. So only 2 tough castings (outside the 20-30 range) there.

Oh, but they all have to be Pakistani midgets with hairlips. Did I forget to mention that?

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phlox   

Saw this yesterday at the Virginia Film Festival. Reading this thread helped me make more sense of it. Apart from Ruth Gordon's acting, and the final upbeat scene, the deadpan humor seemed too heavy-handed (for me). The real pathos of the characters' lives gets lost. I found myself asking simple-minded questions like

[spoilers]

Why wasn't there more about Harold discovering Maude was a holocaust survivor? Why did she throw the ring he gave her into the water? Did Harold and Maude actually have sex or just sleep together? And most of all, if Maude had so much free-wheeling love of life, art and play, why did she off herself with pills at the end?

 

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