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USA 1971
Directed by
Hal Ashby
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Harold And Maude

Bud Cort had the good fortune to be cast in two iconic Zeitgeist movies very early in his career, Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud (1970) and Harold And Maude the following year.   Although the latter is the more conventional of the two, both films are largely driven, and justified, by the counter-cultural spirit of the time. Somewhat surprisingly whilst the former has largely sunk from view, Harold And Maude, which was critically bashed when released has gone on to achieve at least cult status as one of the classic films of the 70s, complete with a Cat Stevens songbook.

Harold (Cort) is a young man from a very wealthy family who amuses himself by faking his suicide and attending funerals where he meets 79 year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon) and the two bond. 

I must admit to not seeing the appeal of the film which whilst having some amusing moments, notably in the form of Harold’s Uncle Victor (Charles Tyner) a one-armed Army officer who waxes lyrical over the virtues of a military life, has none of the trans-generational coming-of-age charm and psychological credibility of, say, The Graduate (1968) and is closer to the more stridently typological satirical style of, say, The Ruling Class (1972).  But that perhaps explains the film’s cult status as it offers a lot of very obvious pegs on which a willing audience could hang their apparel. (There is a passing allusion to Maude's status as a Holocaust survivor but the darker and more meaningful tone of this and her eventual suicide gets diluted by Harold's fake suicides and the general spirit of anarchy).

The 76 year old Gordon who had won an Oscar for her role in Rosemary's Baby (1968) and who with husband Garson Kanin wrote the Hepburn-Tracy vehicles, Adam’s Rib (1949) and Pat And Mike (1952) gives a spirited performance but whilst Cort’s blandness was buried under the mayhem of Brewster McCloud here it creates a curious negative space.  Vivian Pickles, a British actress who largely worked in television, is particularly good as Harold’s mother.




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