It's hard to imagine a more perfect midnight movie than Harold and Maude (1971), Hal Ashby's subversive black comedy about the taboo romance of a twenty-year-old boy obsessed with death (Bud Cort) and a flamboyant 79-year-old senior citizen (Ruth Gordon) whose worldview is eccentric, to say the least. They meet at a funeral, of course, and move on from there into a strange inquiry into the meaning of life.
Largely ignored at the time of its release, Harold and Maude has grown over the years into an enduring cult favorite -- not least because young Harold's faked suicides are so various and inventive. The forward-thinking Ashby went on to direct some other splendid films of the Seventies -- Shampoo, Coming Home and The Last Detail among them -- before dying of a heart attack in mid-career.
Two years earlier, Cort had appeared in Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud as the boy who wants to fly around the interior of the Houston Astrodome, but his career was over soon after playing Harold. The script grew out of a twenty-minute master's-thesis film conceived by then-UCLA graduate student Colin Higgins, and the music is by Cat Stevens, in his pre-Islamic days. In other words, there's plenty of oddity here to go around.
Harold and Maude
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The film will show Saturday, February 28, as part of Landmark Theatres' Midnights at the Mayan series. The Mayan is at 110 Broadway; for information, call 303-352-1992 or go to www.landmarktheatres.com