14th Jul2014

‘Harold and Maude’ Blu-ray Review (Masters of Cinema)

by Richard Axtell

Stars: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack, Charles Tyner, Ellen Geer, Eric Christmas | Written by Colin Higgins | Directed by Hal Ashby

Harold-and-Maude-Blu

Harold (Cort) is young, rich, depressed, lonely and obsessed with death. His idea of fun is visiting funerals and pretending to commit suicide in a variety of gruesome and violent ways in front of his controlling mother. One day at a funeral he meets Maude (Gordon), a fun and rebellious seventy-nine year-old who loves life and every thing to do with it. As their friendship grows, Maude teaches Harold how to live life to the full with a smile on your face, how to love and to not worry so much about the little things.

Filmed in 1971, Harold and Maude is coming to Blu-ray this year as part of the Masters of Cinema series. This irreverent and dark comedy is a strange tale of loving life to the fullest. The relationship between Harold and Maude is a crazy, exciting and hilarious mix of happiness and anti-establishment and, because of the age difference, a bit weird and disturbing. But that is no doubt deliberate as it plays into the main theme of the story. Why shouldn’t you be able to love who you want? You are free to do what you want.

With an almost constant backing track of Cat Stevens tunes, this film dances the line between funny and silly and deep and meaningful with grace and the soundtrack just emphasises it perfectly. To every silly moment with Maude and Harold out on an adventure, which will leave you chuckling, there are moments where the film will remind you of the darker moments of life as well. For example, the tattoo of numbers on fun-loving Maude’s arm. What results is a film which whilst being comedic and over the top, will also make you pause and think; not something which I find is achieved in film very often.

This film is definitely a cult classic though, which means that a lot of people are on either side of the fence about it. To be fair, the comedy is definitely more on the darker side and the film may not be for everyone’s tastes. But, I find the best way to find out with these things is to watch it for yourself and see what you think. It is a strange film and at times can seem a little unclear as to its purpose, but if you can hold on to the end, the message of the film hits home hard and clear. Live life to the fullest and be happy!

Eureka’s Master of Cinema Blu-ray release of Harold and Maude includes a wealth of special features, including a new and exclusive video discussion of the film by critic David Cairns, audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill, and a 40 page featuring archival interviews with director Hal Ashby and writer-producer Colin Higgins, a 1971 profile of star Ruth Gordon, and rare archival imagery.

Harold and Maude is out now.

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