“I think I see the light coming to me, coming through me giving me a second sight–so shine, shine, shine!”—Cat Stevens
Are you a go-getter or do you sit on the sidelines of your own life? Happiness is determined by what you put into life. The more you do, the more you get to do. Rather than wallowing in self-pity and indifference, you must figuratively grab life by the horns and hold on for the unpredictable ride. Though life is hard at times, you need to be on your “A” game, and live it to the fullest. No one is to blame except for you, as you are the head writer to your book of life. Today’s feature, Harold and Maude (1971) focuses on this sentiment.
An eccentric, emotionally deprived, wealthy teenager Harold, Bud Cort of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), is obsessed with death and attends funerals, construction areas, scrapyards, and staging fake suicides (by gun, noose, fire, and blade) trying to get the attention of his pretentious, disinterested mother, Vivian Pickles of Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). Failing to find solace in his mother and psychiatrist, Harold’s world takes a turn for the better when he meets the free spirited, strong willed Maude, Ruth Gordon of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), at a funeral.
Meanwhile, Harold’s mother signs him up for a dating service to land him a wife (he rebels with grim theatrics to scare suitors away), buys him a Porsche which he converts into a dragster hearse, and urges him to join the Army in hopes to instill discipline and direction in his life. Harold and Maude quickly hit it off, and the duo become inseparable as they get caught up in adventures (stealing cars…and trees) and Harold begins to grow, finding a sense of worth through Maude’s optimistic wisdom of the world and life being the most precious gift of all.
Harold and Maude is a dark comedy romance directed by the underrated hippie, Hal Ashby of The Last Detail (1973), and a master thesis/screenplay by Colin Higgins of Foul Play (1978). Critically and commercially unsuccessful when originally released, the film developed a large cult following over the past forty years. Harold and Maude has also placed on the America’s Film Institutes (AFI) lists, and deemed by the Library of Congress as being historically and significantly important.
The entire soundtrack (originally slated for Elton John) in Harold and Maude was composed and performed by Cat Stevens, now named Yusuf Islam, and was a perfect fit for the film. The music is such a powerful character within itself, I feel any another musician would not have given the story justice.
Harold and Maude examines the themes of alienated, disconnected youth, resilience, authoritarian hypocrisy, unconventional love, nihilism, war, and the holocaust. By today’s standards, the comedy is that of gallows humor and effective use of breaking the fourth wall. Harold and Maude was subsequently adapted into a play on Broadway and later adapted in the 1970s for French television. Thankfully all possibilities of cinematic sequels, remakes, and prequels have never seen the light of day. Harold and Maude is such a unique, quirky, thoughtful film with a lot of heart. This film needs to be respected and the source material left alone by the tycoons of Tinseltown, it also stands up well to multiple viewings. This is a must see for everyone, it is an integral film to cinema in general as well as popular culture.
So are you going to live life on your own terms or are you going to let the naysayers dissuade you from your own happiness? Get excited about the possibilities that lie before your own existence, suit up and prepare for a roller coaster ride. It is definitely worth it. Maude best sums up this review and my message with, “Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.”