REVIEW: HAROLD AND MAUDE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: HAL ASHBY / SCREENPLAY: COLIN HIGGINS / STARRING: BUD CORT, RUTH GORDON, VIVIAN PICKLES / RELEASE DATE: JULY 14TH
Okay, I’m going to pitch you a coming of age love story about a young man obsessed with death, who falls in love with a 79-year-old free spirit that he meets at a funeral. Imagine that pitch being kicked around Hollywood these days. We’d probably be faced with a brooding, Robert Pattinson-esque Harold being paired up with a more comfortably aged Jennifer Aniston-esque cougar Maude.
Thank Zeus’ beard then that Harold and Maude was made in 1971 at the height of the new wave of experimental, independent American cinema.
There are two things that strike you most about watching Harold and Maude. The first is the brilliance of the comedy, which balances both subtlety and in your face gags with the perfect blend of script, direction and performance. There is a moment of comedy perfection when, after one of the film's many mock suicides, Hal Ashby holds the camera on Bud Cort’s face. The punchline is delivered without a word of dialogue, simply by the look on Cort’s face.
The second, and possibly more striking thing about the film is how beautifully the love story plays out. The chemistry between Cort and Ruth Gordon has an ease and natural feel that makes them one of the iconic screen couples. The scenes they have together have a spark and humour that is so genuinely touching that you almost forget the age difference between them.
Harold and Maude is one of those cult classic films from an experimental age that most people have probably never even heard of, and that works in its favour. To tell you too much about the film before you’ve seen it would take away a lot of the delights to be discovered within it. Instead I will sell it to you the same way a friend sold it to me when he lent me his copy many years ago: “Just watch it. You’ll love it.”
The Blu-ray contains a really nice picture transfer of the film and offers two audio options (mono and stereo). The bonus features are fine, being made up of an interview/discussion with critic David Cairns and an audio commentary by Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill. There are a couple of nice factoids in both, but they are quite dry and flat at times.
Extras: See above