The original indie quirk movie, director Hal Ashby’s HAROLD AND MAUDE has been re-issued this week on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection, whose boutique home video releases are little artifacts of film goodness in and of themselves. The special edition features new digital restoration, a remastered soundtrack and a booklet of archival interviews and essays.
Watching the movie again for the first time in 20 years, I must admit my first thought was, “Hey! Wes Anderson made a movie in 1971!” Anderson has long acknowledged Ashby as an influence, but the connection is never more conspicuous than in the first darkly comic scenes of Harold and Maude.
Bud Cort plays young Harold, adrift at age 19 among the meaningless riches of his wealthy family. Harold is obsessed by death, and likes to stage elaborate fake suicides to get the attention of his distracted, society-obsessed mother. (“Are all these suicides for your mother’s benefit?” a shrink asks Harold. “No,” he replies. “I wouldn’t say benefit.”)