director Hal Ashby
A cult film by the time I saw it in the 1980’s, Harold and Maude is a black comedy somewhat of its time and somewhat out of time. If nothing else, it has given us one of the great Ruth Gordon characters, an extreme converse to her evil evil evil neighbor in Rosemary’s Baby (1968), the septuagenarian Holocaust survivor free spirit extraordinaire Maude.
In the 1980’s there wasn’t I much hated more than the 1970’s. And this odd little film is super-steeped in its place in period that even its amusing morbidity and its anti-establishment attitude clashed against the Cat Stevens soundtrack of soft and easy folk rock. And Bud Cort, part of why he winds up lovable is because he’s such a permanent weirdo of a guy, fitting in nowhere, no time, ever.
Hal Ashby is one of the directors highlighted in Peter Biskind’s 1998 history of 1970’s American filmmaking, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, whose only film I had ever seen was Harold and Maude and still is to this day though several of his films sit in my long, long film queue.
This viewing was for my kids. I was looking for a change-up and what more out of left field can you get than this film that fits in with the incongruous and eclectic shelf of old school cult movies? It wound up just me and my daughter watching it, but she enjoyed it. I hadn’t seen it in probably 2 decades. It has that added benefit of being filmed in part in San Francisco, in particular at the Sutro Ruins which I have long visited and which have eroded considerably since this film was shot.
Yes, the best scene is when Harold’s mother (the terrific Vivian Pickles) fills out a dating questionnaire for her son with her increasingly personal reactions rather than his.