Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Movie #233: Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude is a weird black comedy starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort. I have literally no idea why I own it. Like, I'd never seen it, it was still in the wrapper, and no one I've talked to can remember giving it to me.

So, Harold (Cort) is a rich guy in his 20s, living with his mother (Vivian Pickles), who is utterly self-absorbed. Harold is obsessed with death - the first thing we see him do is hang himself. His mother, unfazed, just tells him to get down; turns out he stages these elaborate suicides for himself (it's never explained how he does it).

Harold also goes to funerals for fun, and at one he meets Maude (Gordon), a woman nearing her 80th birthday who loves life in all its forms. She and Harold become friends and lovers, and Harold proposes on her birthday. Maude, however, is adamant that 80 is the proper age to die, and has already taken the drugs to ensure it. She dies in the emergency room, and Harold drives his car off a cliff...but is then seen on the cliff's edge, playing his banjo and walking away, seemingly happy.

This is a bizarre freaking movie. It's a black comedy without being horrible, and Maude is really the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl, except that unlike the young, fluffy MPDGs of modern cinema, she's earned it. She's fought for justice, she's been arrested many times, and she's a fucking concentration camp survivor (this is indicated with a shot of the tattoo on her arm, but it's never mentioned, and I appreciate the movie trusting us with that).

This movie is a study in juxtaposition. You've got the obvious stuff - the ages of the characters, their views on life and death, but also things like the lively parade happening simultaneously with a funeral and Harold's uncle (Charles Tyner) only coming to life and becoming passionate when talking about killing people in battle. It's very artfully done, and definitely an original script. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low, I think

Next up: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone