Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude (1971), directed by Hal Ashby.

Harold is a sensitive, morose young man who drives a hearse and attends funerals. I suppose today he'd be a Goth. His problem is his mother, a real piece of work. He tries to get her attention by staging elaborate fake suicides, but her attention is not worth having. He also has memorable ways of driving off the blind dates she arranges for him.

He meets Maude, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who has reached the age of 80 years minus 1 week. Ever wonder what happens to those characters? The girlish free spirits who make their own rules, including traffic laws? Now you know.

He falls in love with her. All the way. You don't see that every day.

Bud Cort is just outstanding, a performance that I think could be done only once. Ruth Gordon's "Maude" is a memorable creation, a kooky and vivacious face on a tragic life.

It's a 60s countercultural anthem (Vietnam looming large in the background) and the other characters are foils for our rebels to mock: police, army, shrinks, clergy, straight society in general. Although: Vivian Pickles is pretty tremendous as the mother.

If would be a much darker film without Cat Stevens's fine score, bright and soulful and tragic as needed, as when we go out on "Trouble":

Oh trouble can't you see
You have made me a wreck
Now won't you leave me in my misery

I've seen your eyes
And I can see death's disguise
Hangin' on me

I'm beat, I'm torn
Shattered and tossed and worn
Too shocking to see

This is another of those films not much regarded at the time, more appreciated since. Critics hated it and it bombed at the box office.

Criterion Blu-ray. The commentary track is patched together observations by one of the producers and a Ashby biographer but has many good details.