Hal Ashby, who did an equally good job directing Jack Nicholson in the 1973 comedy drama The Last Detail, directs a film which is the complete reverse of the normal youth culture type film, the free spirited individual this time is a 79 year old women Marjorie ‘Maude’ Chardin, played by the 75 year old Ruth Gordon. Maude befriends the 20ish Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) who is obsessed with death, drives a hearse, attends funerals of people he does not know and stages elaborate hoax suicides to gain the attention of his rich snooty controlling mother, wearily portrayed by the wonderful English actress Vivian Pickles.
Harold and Maude’s love affair with its sexual liaison challenged the taboos of youth, aging, sex and even death. Which was probably the reason it was not particularly successful at the time of its release: it later gained international cult status in the true sense of the word and now is acclaimed as an American film classic.
I first watched this film with Darren some years ago, but last nights showing was quite meaningful in that I now realize why Darren loved this film so much. Maude’s mantra was much the same as his own, imparting kindness, understanding others, living for today and most of all having fun. As Maude demonstrated death is ultimately what gives life meaning.
Harold: You sure have away with people.
Maude: Well, they’re my species!