Directed by: Hal Ashby (Being There)
Starring: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack, Charles Tyner, Ellen Geer
Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971) is 40 years old, and it wears its years effortlessly. It feels as cheeky and fresh now as it did when it first appeared, and that’s pretty remarkable when you consider that the film is every inch a product of that counter-culture era. It has all the elements of its time in its anti-war, anti-establishment sensibility, yet it feels just as relevant now as it ever did. Even its all Cat Stevens soundtrack retains its freshness. Why? That’s not so easy to say, but I think it comes down to the fact that true irreverence never really grows old—and the even greater fact that its generation-spanning romance between young Harold (Bud Cort) and elderly Maude (Ruth Gordon) also spans the years, because it remains true. It also remains a little bit shocking, though not in itself, but in the fact that it forces the viewer to rethink his or her own conventional notions of what is or isn’t an “acceptable” romance. Of course, the additional fact that the story is a very quirky, biting, dark comedy plays a part, too. And still, it’s really the film’s emotional resonance that sold it 40 years ago and sells it today, keeping it a living classic work.
The Asheville Film Society presents a special benefit theatrical screening of Harold and Maude at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 8, at The Carolina Asheville. Admission is $5 for AFS members and $10 for non-members. The film’s stunt coordinator and friend of the director, Buddy Joe Hooker, will do a Q&A upstairs in the Cinema Lounge after the film.