...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Harold and Maude

91 min. | Dir. Hal Ashby | Rated PG

A great triple bill would include The Graduate, this movie, and Rushmore. Each centers on directionless young men in the flower of insolence falling for older women, set to a soundtrack / Greek chorus of iconic ‘60s and ‘70s folk and rock. All three reflect the sensibility of when they were made: The Graduate’s end-titles might as well spell out, “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30,” and Rushmore’s, “Hey, People, We’re All Getting Older; Let’s Be Cool To Each Other.” This movie, which inspires Austen-like ardor in its fans, is marked by the late-Vietnam era’s obsession with death, but unlike the early-‘70s movies surrounding it, death acts here as a necessary limitation on happiness, something that gives it shape and meaning. And while Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin and Jason Schwartzman’s Max fall for women still wearing the youthful mantle of easy beauty, Bud Cort’s Harold falls for a woman who is old, elderly even, played with brio by Ruth Gordon. Their relationship puts an end to Cort’s elaborately staged (and wonderfully sick) suicide attempts, suggesting that pretending to die is the same as pretending to live, and Maude lives. (Friday, midnight, at The Art Theater.)

[Published this week in the print edition of The District.]

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