‘Harold And Maude’ At Columbus
(4.16) This weekend the newly formed Columbus Film Club presents the 1971 cult classic “Harold and Maude” starring Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon.
With the idiosyncratic American fable “Harold and Maude,” countercultural director Hal Ashby (Being There) fashioned what would become the cult classic of its era. . . . Ashby tells the story of the emotional and romantic bond between a death-obsessed young man (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’s Bud Cort) from a wealthy family and a devil-may-care, bohemian octogenarian (Rosemary’s Baby’s Ruth Gordon). Equal parts gallows humor and romantic innocence, “Harold and Maude” dissolves the line between darkness and light along with the ones that separate people by class, gender, and age, and it features indelible performances and a remarkable soundtrack by Cat Stevens.
Here is the question you will hear from film fans of a certain age, “Does it hold up?” There was a lot at work in those days that could influence one’s appreciation of a quirky movie: youth, political/social context, drugs, the newness of the concept. “Morgan!”? Godawful. “King of Hearts”? Too twee by half. “Putney Swope”? I have yet to revisit that one. (Please don’t suck. I have such good memories.)
As it happens, film writer Mark Caro took on this very topic, with this very movie, last month in the New York Times — “A Movie Date With My Younger Self” (NYT 3.24.17).
“Harold and Maude” expected you not only to laugh at its black humor but also to care, something not required of Inspector Clouseau or the Knights Who Say “Ni!” I remember laughing as hard as I ever had as Harold self-immolates in view of a horrified blind date, but I’d also get choked up during the final montage set to Cat Stevens’s “Trouble.” I’d sit next to my friends, tears pushing against my eyeballs, thinking: Don’t look at me, don’t look at me.
Cut to present day, and I have my own middle-school- and high-school-age daughters and reason not to consider suicide a laughing matter. Yet I still felt the tug of this movie, like an old pal you suddenly realize is on Facebook.
Caro’s adult response to “Harold and Maude” was not like mine. My recommendation for a movie that does hold up is “Shampoo” also directed by Hal Ashby. Fantastic cast.
$10, 3pm, Sunday, April 16, Columbus Theatre upstairs, 270 Broadway, (directions)