Harold and Maude remains in many ways a timeless film that celebrates life through characters who either are obsessed with death or are very well acquainted with dying and suffering. We are all going to die, and no matter how we embrace or deny that fact, at some point life as we know it ends.
Now isn't that a wonderful way to begin a very long analysis about a very funny and poignant film?
When I reviewed the film here many months ago, I did not write a review that was personal enough. Maybe I was chicken, maybe I was lazy or maybe it just wasn't time for me to write the review I needed to about this film. The review I did write, (included below) is a pretty mediocre (and much shorter) one.
Harold and Maude is a unique one of a kind film. It has very dark and broad humor, but is also a film full of quiet under-stated moments. It is a film that risks everything as it veers away from being a quirky comic character study and focuses on the unique life-changing romance. A romance that was bold, controversial and shocking then and still remains so today. A romance, which still makes viewers very uncomfortable. The film has a memorable soundtrack by Cat Stevens whose song lyrics are used to further the mood, tone and texture of the film. The two original Steven's songs written specifically for the film are DON'T BE SHY and IF YOU WANT TO SING OUT, SING OUT. IF YOU WANT TO SING OUT serves as an anthem for Maude's philosophy of living. Both Hal Ashby and Cat Stevens purposely decided against releasing an official soundtrack album. The film contained several previously recorded Stevens's songs (from Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman), and the two original songs only became available many years later on record and CD (with the exception of an un-official and illegal Japanese soundtrack album)..
This is your last warning. If you haven't seen this cult film classic, stop reading this review right now and go see it Please. Pretty please. You can only see the film with virgin eyes once. If you are interested in a unique quirky, one of a kind comedy that will amuse, shock, and touch you... Harold and Maude will do that and more. Come back and read my review later.
The opening sequence for those watching the film, Harold and Maude for the first time is a shocker. A shocker that twists into a delicious bit of dark comedy. It should be noted that while Bud Court and Ruth Gordon will forever be identified and remembered as Harold and Maude, a great deal of the film's success is also because of the perfect casting and brilliant performance of Vivian Pickles as Harold's Mom. Her impeccable line readings and comedic timing allow the dark humor to have a cruel edge, yet be laugh out loud funny. She is a perfect foil for Harold's suicidal tableaux's. It is her underplayed reactions, which make the comedy even more memorable than it would have been Harold and Maude was originally written by Colin Higgins to be a half hour Master's thesis film. Instead Higgins expanded it to feature length and quickly sold it to Paramount with an agreement that he would do a test and prove he was capable of directing the film. Higgins did shoot test footage but Paramount decided they didn't want to make a low budget film with Higgins directing but wanted a medium budgeted 1.2 million film made with the material and that required a more seasoned director to direct the film. Higgins would write Silver Streak and finally get his chance to write and direct a film with 1978's Foul Play (Chevy Chase) and 1980's Nine to Five. He also wrote and directed Best Little Who-house in Texas. (Higgins died of Aids in 1988 at age 47)
Director Hal Ashby (The Landlord -1970) was hired to direct Harold and Maude. Ashby had a couple of important strengths, which served the Harold, and Maude project well. Strengths which later became even more apparent with his subsequent films. First was his...