I work in the Finance department of a media company, and someone who dabbles in writing of any genre.
Published July 12th 2014
Death means the termination or extinction of life. We all know that once we're dead, everything is gone. It has been said that cats have nine lives, that's not to say that we, mere humans, can have the same.
This macabre but comedic movie tells it all. It centres on Harold, a young man who has everything at his beck and call. A rich family, a mother who dotes on him, and a seemingly perfect life. Despite of all the trappings of life, Harold's obsession with death is profound.
He continuously tries to commit fake elaborate suicides that even his overzealous mother virtually ignores.
He spends his time attending funerals of people who are strangers to him and has detached himself from the reality of life, until he meets Maude at one of the funeral events. A zany, larger than life 79 year old, whose zest for life is quite contagious. She teaches Harold than life is not gloom and doom but a precious gift bestowed to us, and we must live life to the fullest. She also introduces Harold to the pleasure of dance and music and even teaches him how to play a banjo.
The friendship becomes so close that it eventually turns into a romantic relationship that shocks his Mother, his Psychologist and the Priest.
On Maude's 80th birthday, an unprecedented event happens which could either leave Harold in tatters or resurrect his life.
The film is directed by Hal Ashby. Before pursuing a career in directing, he was a film editor. Among his accolades are, Oscar nominations for Best Editing in the film, "The Russians are Coming", and he earned an Oscar for "In the Heat of the Night". He received a third nomination as Best Director for the film "Coming Home".
He was born as William Hal Ashby from Ogden Utah. He grew up in a Mormon environment, and apparently in a dysfunctional family. He was the son of a Dairy Farmer, who committed suicide, and by the time he was 19, he was already married and divorce.
Bud Cort, who plays Harold Parker Chasen, was born Walter Edward Cox. He was discovered by Director Robert Altman, who then cast him in two of his movies, Mash and Brewster McCloud. His famous role as the young man obsessed with death in Harold and Maude earned him an international cult status.
Maude, portrayed by Dame Marjorie Chardin, is a 79-year-old who believes that life has to be lived to the fullest. Her past life is not known, but when she was young woman living in pre-war Vienna, she was once married, and has a Nazi concentration camp tattoo on one arm.
Harold's mother Mrs Chansen is played by Vivian Pickles. Opulent, controlling, snooty, and incapable of affection. She bought Harold a Jaguar but he in turn, turned it into a hearse. She also tried to get him into computer dating, which we now know as Online dating, hoping to find him a bride, but that also didn't work.
This movie was originally released in 1971 by Paramount Pictures. It was written by Colin Higgins and published as a novel in the same year. It was also played in Broadway but closed after four performances.
When it was first released, this film was commercially unsuccessful, but subsequently made a cult following. I guess, the quirkiness of Harold and Maude resonates to most of us. Death is something that lies in the vortex of our brain. It was also an era where relationships should be followed like a text book. Being romantically involved with someone that is so much older was frowned upon by the society.
There isn't much difference now, but nevertheless it's tolerated. It doesn't matter if you are black or white, rich or poor, young or old. At the end of the day, love can overrule us. Love does not discriminate and it has the ability to conquer all. Harold and Maude did just that. They broke the barrier of being non-conformant. They loved each other, without thinking of what consequences it might bring. The old adage of "go with the flow".
In our busy lives, we probably can take a context from Harold and Maude. Live life to the fullest, enjoy every minute of it and, just be happy. Overall, this timeless and classic movie is an absolute joy to watch.
The music in Harold and Maude is by Cat Stevens. He composed two original songs for the film, "Don't be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out , Sing Out".