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Saturday, 12 May 2012

Harold & Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude (1971)

Spotlight on Movie Mothers... Monster Mothers

This film is available to watch on YouTube - refer to link below this post. All YouTube links current as of 12 May 2012.
Harold and Maude is a romantic comedy with a difference. What makes it so unique? It tells the love story of a 20 year old and a 79 year old... Yes, you read that right.

The film was a commercial flop for Paramount Pictures when it was first released. Interestingly enough, it is based on a Broadway play, which closed after only 4 performances. Like a fine wine, it's popularity has increased over the years with it now being considered a cult classic.

The American Film Institute have ranked this film #45 in their list of 100 Funniest Movies of all Time. It was also selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1997 for being "cultrally, historcally or aesthetically signficant"

Harold Chasen (played by Bud Cort) is a 20 year old obsessed with death. He gatecrashes random funerals, drives a hearse and states a number of "fake suicides".

Maude Chardin (played by Ruth Gordon) is a 79 year old swinger and holocaust surviver, who is obsessed with living life to the fullest. Maude also enjoys gatecrashing random funerals, which is where she and Harold meet.

Musical Highlights

The film's soundtrack features songs by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam). While I am not a fan of Cat Stevens, the included songs, 2 of which are new, are important to the film's storyline, and enhance the viewing experience.
The musical highlight for me is "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out" (see link below).

Harold's relationship with his mother

Despite living in the same house, Harold has a very detached relationship with his rich, snobby mother. To get her attention, Harold stages a number of "fake suicide attempts", ranging from hanging himself, self mutilation, drowning, shooting himself, just to name a few.

The video on the right contains a montage of Harold fake suicide attempts.

Harold's mother feels Harold is now at the age where he should be getting married, and without his consent registers him into a computer dating service, which she says "screens out the fat and the ugly, so it is obviously a firm of high standards". One by one, Harold attempts to horrify each dating candidate with staged morbid acts of self mutilation.

Freud's oedipus complex holds that boys have a subconscious desire to sexually possess their mother, and kill their fathers. Is this story the oedipus complex to the extreme? Is Harold's detached relationship with his mother the catalyst for his obsession with death, and his attraction to Maude?

After finding out Harold has proposed to Maude, his mother sends him to a psychologist who says: "A very common neurosis, particularly in this society whereby the male child subconsciously wishes to sleep with his mother. Of course, what puzzles me, Harold, is that you want to sleep with your grandmother".

Harold is also sent to his priest, who has the funniest line in the film: "I would 
be remiss in my duty if I did not tell you the idea of intercourse and the fact of your firm, young body co-mingling with the withered flesh, sagging breast and flabby buttocks makes me want to vomit".

Watch this film on YouTube

The complete film is currently available on YouTube to watch (linked below).

DVD Releases
This film was available on DVD in Australia, but is currently out of print.
A Special Edition DVD is being released by the Criterion Collection in June 2012 as Spine #608.

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