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Self-destructive and needy but wealthy teenager Harold is obsessed with death and spends his leisure time attending funerals, watching the demolition of buildings, visiting junkyards, simulating suicides trying to get the attention of his indifferent, snobbish and egocentric mother, and having sessions with his psychologist. When Harold meets the anarchic seventy-nine-year-old Maude at a funeral, they become friends and the old lady discloses other perspectives of the cycle of life for him. Meanwhile, his mother enlists him in a dating service and tries to force him to join the army. On the day of Maude's eightieth birthday, Harold proposes to her but he finds the truth about life at the end of hers. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Maude pulls the banjo out of a cabinet, you see the reflection of crew and lights. See more »
[after spotting Harold hanging from a noose in the living room]
I suppose you think that's very funny, Harold... Oh, dinner at eight, Harold. And do try and be a little more vivacious.
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If so irreverent a story were to be told today, how would one react? As was probably the case when the film was released, people would probably find the theme edgy, if not inappropriate.
Such is the case with the cult film `Harold and Maude.' It openly explores themes of suicide, love, death and life with a fresh perspective.
The interesting part is how this film will likely find you. In most societies, an older man will likely fall for a woman years his junior. However, Harold (Bud Cort)-a shy teenager with an affinity for death-meets his 80-year-old true love Maude (Ruth Gordon), not at a dance or social event, but at funerals. The meeting almost seems reminiscent of Edward Norton's character's support group addiction in `Fight Club.'
Harold loves the attention he gets from staging fake suicides to frighten his obtuse and superficial haute-culture mother. In a reaction, she enlists him in a computer dating service in a vain matchmaking attempt to fix him up with Beetle-driving yuppies-to-be. The beauty is he frightens off all his prospective mates with cleverly staged fake suicides. At the same time, he meets Maude, a free-spirited senior who teaches him to appreciate life. After spending more time with her, he finds himself in love with her. However, a barrage of authority-i.e. priests, army-loving uncles and a psychiatrist-urge him not to follow through with his relationship.
`Harold and Maude' plays on '60s-esque themes of anti-establishment and open minds. Harold's militaristic uncle comes across as comical in his war-mongering vices-right down to his armless right sleeve that salutes when he pulls the string. Harold seems unhappy though he's surrounded by extravagance that rivals anything on MTV's `Cribs.' Not only that but his mother's lack of sense and indifference to her son mirrors her addiction to affluence. In addition to the swarm of brides-to-be, she tries to pacify him with material possessions-including a spanking-new Jaguar convertible, which he converts into a hearse.
Cat Stevens' open-air, acoustic-driven rock 'n' roll provides the soundtrack for the film. It gives the film a decent organic sound indicative of its demeanor.
This is a film that chases happiness wherever it can be found with a Woodstock-sense of responsibility. Maude's vices of vehicular larceny and bong smoking match Harold's love of fake hara-kiris and hearses. In a way, this movie comes across as a bit dated in that time has indeed erased the '60s anticipation of The Age of Aquarius and replaced it with `Fight Club' desperation.
However what the film lacks in reality, it makes up for in heart. This movie is not meant to be taken seriously; it's only to break down paradigms of societal thought.
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