**** So Im in Midtown Video with my
17-year-old daughter looking for a mutually acceptable movie. I
nix Dazed and Confused; she vetoes Fargo. I say, How about
Harold and Maude? It was my favorite movie in college. She
looks dubious. I say, I was right about Bob Dylan,
wasnt I? Trust me.
In point of fact, I wasnt sure how Harold and Maude
with its oddball romance between a suicidal teenager and a
79-year-old free spirit would play to a new generation. I
wasnt even sure how it would play to me after all these
years. I shouldnt have worried. From its opening scene
(wherein Harold, played to moody perfection by Bud Cort, stages a
mock hanging), to the final credits, Harold and Maude is still
irresistible, a quirky coming-of-age film with surprises at every
Harold is a wealthy, repressed, death-obsessed young man who goes
to funerals for fun. His mother thinks he just needs to meet the
right girl, and sets him up with a parade of potential dates.
Harold prefers staged mock suicides to small talk. The dates flee
in terror. Harold drives off in his converted hearse to another
At one of the funerals he meets Maude, a spunky septagenarian New
Ager (indelibly played by veteran character actress Ruth Gordon).
After the ceremony, Maude borrows a Volkswagen and
drives Harold away, sweeping him into her life. Over the course
of the next few days, Maude introduces Harold to petty larceny,
pot, sex, art, love, and finallythe true nature of death.
In the process Harold finally learns how to live.
Harold and Maude isnt subtle, with its over-the-top,
post-1960s sensibilities, but it somehow manages to both embrace
and transcend its era. Director Ashby lavishes the film with
gorgeous Northern California scenery, and the Cat Stevens songs
that play over all the transition scenes are a perfect fit.
Bottom line, this is still a smart, funny movie, well worth a
rental, either to relive it, or to introduce it to a younger
generation. Its been my experience that theyll
appreciate it. All I hear around the house these days is Cat