Monday, May 26, 2008

Film Club revisits the 70s

A full strength film club with Mrs The Millbrooker, Frankenkeith and Shazzerooneypoos filling the sofa with variously sized bottoms, Dong in his accustomed armchair and yours truly on the rocker (yes - on, not off) met yesterday evening to view Hal Ashby's 1971 minor cult film "Harold and Maude".

It's been a long time favourite of Mrs The Millbrooker's, so I'd also seen it before. All the others were H&M virgins, though. It's a fairly slight film on the surface, although quite a few issues do get raised from beneath the dark humour.The plot concerns an odd "coming of age" for Harold Parker Chasen (Bud Cort), a young man with a tendency to stage mock suicides and who enjoys attending strangers' funerals in his leisure time. He meets the vivacious and distinctly kooky Maude (remember when it was ok to describe someone as kooky?) Maude is played by the wonderful Ruth Gordon with a sparkle in her eye and a wide smile; numerous small adventures ensue in which Maude gives Haroild the benefit of her determinedly light hearted view of life.

They make an unconventional pairing but the on screen chemistry does work as they get into all sorts of scrapes, led by Maude's sense of mischief and Harold's wide eyed delight at life's adventures.The film is very much of its time, it was released in 1971; the cinematic values and social mores depicted are recognisably from the Nixon era in the USA - a constant battle between uptight 1950s influenced convention and the strong individualism of the hippy movement.

The script is packed with one liners and features some highly amusing set pieces, all the better for the audience knowing what's going to happen as Harold's ability to shock a long queue of characters is telegraphed to us. A special mention should go to Eric Christmas as The Priest who milks a cameo appearance with a single line soliloquy for all it's worth. And it's worth a lot.

Film club's verdict? Shazzerooneypoos and Dong enjoyed it, Frankenkeith declared it "like the description of Earth in the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: mostly harmless".

I reckon it's a cracking film provided you don't expect anything too deep and meaningful; it has plenty to amuse for an hour and a half and has a very enjoyable left-field view of the world. Mrs The Millbrooker isn't alone in counting this as one of her all time favourites - this film keeps getting rediscovered by new generations and it deserves to be discovered by plenty more.

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