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Harold and Maude
Harold and Maude
Actors: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Cyril Cusack, Gordon Devol, Judy Engles
Director: Hal Ashby
Genres: Comedy, Drama
PG     2009

Studio: Paramount Home Video Release Date: 03/10/2009 Rating: Pg


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Movie Details

Actors: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Cyril Cusack, Gordon Devol, Judy Engles
Director: Hal Ashby
Creators: John A. Alonzo, Cat Stevens, Edward Warschilka
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Love & Romance
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD - Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 03/10/2009
Release Year: 2009
Screens: Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

In my All-Time Top Ten
Snow Leopard | Urbana, IL | 01/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The editor's review of this film is a fair enough description of the plot. One should add that, despite being made in 1971, the movie manages not to look dated, precisely because it makes such fun of the early 70s style, and that the acting by the three main characters (Harold, Maude and Harold's mother) is simply inspired. Ruth Gordon is splendid of course, while Bud Cort gives a lifetime performance, but it is the portrayal of Harold's mother by Vivian Pickles (what a splendid name for someone in the role) that has to be the most undercelebrated aspect of this film. Her breezy blitheness, outraged exasperation, and British sensibility are all just too wonderful. Filling out a dating questionnaire for her son, in response to the question "Do you find the idea of wife-swapping offensive" she answers, "I find the question offensive." In response to the question, "Do you feel the women's liberation movement has gone too far," she replies, "It cer-tain-ly has." Even "Harold, eat your beets" is delivered so wonderfully that it's memorable. Eric Christmas also makes the bit-part of a priest into something memorable, principally by one splendid monologue.

NOTE: It's been pointed out that a lot of the plot is given away in the following. It's hard to say how much spoilers actually spoil this movie; spoilers may help to make the movie's wisdom more readily apparent on a first viewing. In any case, there are several ahead.

But is this really a black comedy? Personally, I think of black comedies as being morbid and mordant, which Harold & Maude certainly has elements of, but also ultimately cynical. One should not mistake grimness in a film as a sign of nihilism; as the Japanese proverb runs, the ending is all-important. The film ultimately is not about an intergenerational love affair (surely the most "shocking" aspect of the film), but about Harold learning to embrace life. And it is precisely to make as effective as possible Harold's decision to live life to the fullest (rather than continue to prefer to be dead) that it is first necessary to make his life miserable.

As insanely amusing as much of the movie is, it is also full of profundity after profundity from Maude, who is a nearly continuous font of wisdom, with laughter and humor being simply the most crucial values in her wisdom. When she asks Harold what he does for fun, he takes her to a picnic in a wrecking yard. She replies, "I'll grant you, it has a certain something. But is it enough?" When Harold declines her offer of wine, she replies, "Oh go on, it's organic." And most beautiful of all, when Harold says, "I don't want you to die, Maude. I love you," she replies with perfect calmness, "Harold, that's wonderful. Now go out and love some more." If you've been caught up in the genuine spirit of this movie, the line will not seem like some breezy brush-off, but may instead bring tears to your eyes.

The scene of Harold's grief after Maude's death, intercutting silent images of him waiting in a hospital room and driving recklessly around the Marin headlands in the Jaguar he has converted into a hearse while Cat Steven's song, "Trouble" plays, is very well-done and sets up the climax of the film beautifully. Cat Steven's soundtrack throughout, in fact, is a splendid selection of songs, and certainly makes clear that, however morbid things might seem, this film is ultimately life-affirming in a very profound way.

Having watched this movie many, many times and having yet to tire of it, it seems to me there is more to it than meets the eye. And not just because, when Harold gives Maude an engraved birthday gift, she says, "This is the nicest gift anyone has given me in a long time," and then throws it into the San Francisco Bay saying, "That way, I'll always know where it is." And not just because one eventually notices, in the briefest of passing shots, the tattoo of a concentration camp inmate on Maude's arm. In the final analysis, it seems to me that Harold is actually already dead. That his theatrical suicides aren't faked at all, but also don't succeed because he himself is not aware that he's actually dead. It's probably more accurate to say that the director pushes the narrative to the point where Harold seems to be actually dead and not just faking, precisely to make his choice of life at the end all the more inspiring.

And inspiring it is. Harold & Maude is not (alas) for everyone. A viewer who is hidebound like the movie's priest, colonel or mother (read church, state, authority) will find Maude's sometimes gentle, sometimes brash mocking of convention more annoying than enlightening, just as the (not depicted) sexual relationship between Harold and Maude is the thing many people who miss the point remember about the movie. To this, Maude might say, as she does to a police officer, "Don't be officious. You're not yourself when you're officious. That's the curse of a government job." Or as she says, when the priest replies that he didn't like the way she'd painted his statue of the Virgin Mary, "Give it time. It'll grow on you. Some things take a while to appreciate.""
B. Emory | Wilmington NC | 11/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had heard about this movie through friends but was never impressed by the story. A reclusive anti social kid who befriends and falls in love with an elderly (though young at heart) eccentric. I wrote it off completely til I saw a bit of it on television and thought it was hilarious and as it turns out I rented the movie and was extremely hooked. Harold is a rich kid with a high strung, selfish mother who tries anything to find a suitor for him, in turn Harold escapes from his home to overshadow funeral processions and memorials. At a number of these events, Maude is in attendence and she lights up the scene with her off the wall,and positively upbeat personality that horrifies and amuses Harold. After a while they become unlikely friends. Maude helps Harold live a little and in turn he develops true affection to Maude. With Ruth Gordon's charm and incredible acting abilites, and Cat Steven's classy soundtrack, its not hard to find yourself feeling happy and free after the movie is over. It really teaches you a message about being your own person and enjoying life."
Do you enjoy knives?
Barbara L. Baker | Warrensburg, MO United States | 12/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Harold and Maude is my absolute most favorite movie of all time. I've seen it well over one hundred times since it was first released (right when I needed it, as a young college student). It not only is a scathing satire of the Army, psychiatry, and the Church, but also a funny black comedy mixed with an uplifting love story. Quite a heady brew, although not to everyone's taste, I suppose. Still, there are reasons why so many people love it. When I first saw it, I really identified with Harold, and his feelings of suffocation, despite his wealth. But I also wanted to be Maude, and still do. I also appreciate it as a film scholar, for it is one of the best edited films I've ever seen (although the cinematography is fading with time). I also think the Cat Steven score perfectly fits the themes. Having the film on video is a treat (I'm on my third copy, and I hope it will be on DVD in the next year or so)."
Superb DVD production
Andrew Watson | San Jose, CA | 07/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A lot of great movies have been poorly digitized or otherwise transfered to DVD without sufficient care and attention, but I was pleasantl surprised by the quality of this one. They found (or restored) a very clean and clear original print of the film and then digitally captured it beautifully. The soundtrack has also been enhanced with a remix of the Cat Stevens songs to take advantage of the stereo front speakers and the subwoofer. A wonderful movie, well presented."