Harold & Maude

Must-See Cinema! Fantastic soundtrack featuring songs by Cat Stevens!

From the opening scene, in which we see a young man dispassionately and efficiently hang himself from a ceiling rafter while his mother bustles past his swinging body and gives him a swift telling off, it’s clear that we aren’t in regular romcom territory.

Poster art for Harold And MaudeIt’s to director Hal Ashby’s credit that he succeeds in maintaining an unsettling tone of pre-Lynchian absurdism throughout, while also pulling the viewer into a touching love story between perhaps the most unlikely couple in cinema history: lonely teenager Harold, who drives a hearse, tours funerals and rarely opens his mouth; and Maude, a zesty 79-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in a benign universe in which everything from furniture to music reminds her to value each breath.

This is a deeply eccentric film: it’s not just Harold and Maude’s relationship that sets it apart, but the jarring technical style, with its unbalanced sound, artificial colourisation and too symmetrical mise-en-scene. Fans still argue about its meaning today; but whether it’s an attack on the emptiness of Vietnam-era nihilism or a fable celebrating the gift of life, it hasn’t lost its power to challenge and charm in 40 years.

– Jane Graham, The Guardian

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