‘Harold and Maude’ (1971) Not Quite Sure What To Make Of It

Edwin Pereyra

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**SPOILERS**
Okay, I got what the film was all about – life affirmation, living life to the fullest, anti-establishment, nonconformity, etc., etc.
But what I don’t understand is why the two had to fall in love with each other as lovers instead of just friends? I think that situation was a little bit of a stretch. For me, it probably would have worked better had they just remained friends.
In addition, in regards to Harold’s Mom’s reaction about supposedly being dead when told by the cops of the lab incident, why was Harold so disappointed about his Mom’s reaction and wanted to die right there and then? Certainly there was nothing wrong about her reaction as she just fainted into the arms of the cops? What was he expecting?
Furthermore, Maude’s actions did not resonate with me, as it was contrary to everything she stood for. For me, “living life to the fullest” certainly does not mean breaking laws, stealing cars and being reckless.
For a film that was supposed to have a serious message, its too bad that we cannot take its eccentric characters (Harold and his suicide gags, which after a while got tiring; and carefree Maude and her antics, which were funny, but almost to the point of absurdity) more seriously to drive its themes home.
~Edwin
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http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/005780.html#8
[Edited last by Edwin Pereyra on July 23, 2001 at 12:22 PM]
 

Todd Terwilliger

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I love Harold & Maude.
Regarding your points, I think that first of all, the film is a comedy. As such, there is going to be an element of going over the top. Also, Harold is not trying to kill himself, he is trying to get attention. His various suicide attempts are gags which his mother promptly ignores, like everything else about him.
While Harold is young and obsessed with gloom, Maude who is old, shows Harold how to act his age: have some fun, and indulge in some youthful mischief (I'm not condoning grand-theft auto). She also sees him in every way his mother does not, an anti-mom perhaps.
Maude is extreme in some ways because she represents an extreme, just as Harold's mother represents the other extreme. One of the funniest moments, for me, is when a "normal" girl, whom Harold's mom is trying to set up with Harold, watches him go through the act of setting himself on fire. Naturally, she panics but mom doesn't budge.
How that makes some sense to you.
Todd.
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Thi Them

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I saw this movie a few weeks ago and I really liked it. My favorite moment was Harold's meeting with the priest.

~T
 

Darren H

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Edwin, I saw Harold & Maude for the first time three or four months ago, and it has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. In fact, I popped it in again this weekend just to watch the opening sequence, and ended up watching nearly half of it. I'm not sure if I can logically argue against your points (and don't think I'll even try). For me, H&M plays like a fable in the same way that Rushmore does. It's strange: the characters themselves are timeless -- and the story works at that level (learning to love life at any age) -- but the film itself is very much grounded in its time, particularly in its dark, DARK satire of Vietnam-era politics.
As I've mentioned here several times lately, because of H&M I've fallen in love with Hal Ashby's direction. I think he's a wonderful story-teller, who paces his films with great precision. Of all the directors I respect, Ashby is the only one who makes me want to get a movie camera and to write a script.
I'm just curious, Edwin, what did you think of Rushmore? These two films seem to generate similar responses.
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Edwin Pereyra

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Darren, Rushmore is a movie that didn’t do anything for me. While I may owe it another viewing, for now, I share the comments previously made by both Ebert and Bernardinelli on this 2 ½ star movie.
~Edwin
 

Edwin Pereyra

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Okay, this question was never answered when I posted this a couple of weeks ago but hopefully a fresh set of eyes will take notice and answer it as it appears, no one at the moment has an explanation for it. So, if anyone can explain this plot point, which has been bugging me about this movie, I'd appreciate it:
In regards to Harold’s Mom’s reaction about supposedly being dead when told by the cops of the lab incident, why was Harold so disappointed about his Mom’s reaction and wanted to die right there and then? Certainly there was nothing wrong about her reaction as she just fainted into the arms of the cops? What was he expecting?

 

Tom Rhea

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>>In regards to Harold’s Mom’s reaction about supposedly being dead when told by the cops of the lab incident, why was Harold so disappointed about his Mom’s reaction and wanted to die right there and then? Certainly there was nothing wrong about her reaction as she just fainted into the arms of the cops? What was he expecting?
 

Edwin Pereyra

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Margo

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In regards to Harold’s Mom’s reaction about supposedly being dead when told by the cops of the lab incident, why was Harold so disappointed about his Mom’s reaction and wanted to die right there and then? Certainly there was nothing wrong about her reaction as she just fainted into the arms of the cops? What was he expecting?
I believe that the lab incident was when Harold discovered *how* to get his mother's attention. After he saw her reaction (or that she actually had a reaction to something involving him) he kept trying to get a reaction out of her again by the fake suicides. Of course, she caught onto what he was doing and went back to ignoring him.
As for Maude's behavior. I always felt that Harold's world was so dark that he needed someone way over the top to show him how to be happy and free. Maude broke all the rules that Harold had been taught to live by and nothing horrible happened to her. It allowed Harold the freedom to try more simple things and to begin to live.
This has been one of my favorite movies for over 20 years. I also love the filming around the Bay Area as I grew up there during that time and they captured the essence of what I remember. And then there's the wonderful Cat Stevens music...
 

Anthony_D

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I know what to make of it...it sucked! Sorry to offend those that did like it, but I didn't find it comedic, artistic, engaging, or anything else that compromises a good movie.
again...sorry to those that didn't like it, but I couldn't even finish watching the film because it was so bad!!!
 

Tino

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*sniff*...what's that smell?

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Dennis Nicholls

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Margo,
The film always makes me feel nostalgic too. My brother's college roommate was a guy named Steve Silver, later of "Beach Blanket Babylon" fame. Steve did the set direction of Maude's railway car home, so I have seen a lot of the props close up. What a character Steve was, now sadly deceased from AIDS.
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Janna S

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I have been a fan of 'Harold and Maude' ever since it came out. (God, has it been that long? Yikes!) While I agree with many of the clarifications and discussion points in these posts, I would like to point out that while it may or may not bear up well under modern analytical scrutiny, it was one of those films that hit the spot for its time, and it was quite perversely profound and significant (and was one of the first major midnight-showing cult films).
So, for that matter, was "Easy Rider" which blew me away (no pun intended) when it came out, but which I find nearly unwatchable now. Maybe you just had to be there . . .
'H & M' was also impacted by one of the great rumors of the era - "Cat Stevens is dead," which, while not as big as "Paul is dead," was still pretty widely spread in those pre-internet days. Of course, Cat did nearly succumb to addiction, and then went on to be rather significantly transformed, but that's another story.
 

Josh Shapero

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I am eager to see this "cult" film. The soundtrack by Cat Stevens is one of the greatest sets of songs ever!. I need some imput....should I go and buy the film?.....is it worth repeated viewings?.....i loved rushmore, and i am a fan of quirky left of centre films. Inquiring minds need to know........
 

Gary->dee

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I'd heard about this movie for many years and remember seeing that yellow poster artwork for it but I never even saw a clip of it until fairly recently, I think about 2 years ago, when I first saw it. Ironically at the time I was involved in a relationship with an older women, but she was no where near Maude's age. In my case the woman was about 10 years older than me. I told her that I saw Harold and Maude and that I thought the movie reminded me of us in an extremely exaggerated way and she got mad, I had to remind her that I used the word "exaggerated".
I can't blame her too much.
Anyway this cult classic is a hoot. It reminded me very much of Rushmore. I think if you combined Harold and Maude and The Graduate you'd get Rushmore, or at least without those earlier movies there wouldn't be a brilliant movie like Rushmore.
 

Steve_Ch

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>>I know what to make of it...it sucked! Sorry to offend those that did like it, but I didn't find it comedic, artistic, engaging, or anything else that compromises a good movie.
 

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