Being There

CINEMA – looking back at Hal Ashby

Article: CINEMA – looking back at Hal Ashby

BAMcinematek is currently in the midst of a whirlwind screening series of films by Hal Ashby – and I couldn’t be happier. As a diehard Ashby fan I get a lot of flack, mostly for still liking HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) as much today as I did when my friend’s Maude-esque mother first showed it to me when I was in high school, back when Cat Stevens’ music and the film’s love-is-all-there-is credo hadn’t yet been spoiled by the years of eye-rolling that followed. I like to think my tastes have matured somewhat since I was fifteen, but I still can’t help loving HAROLD AND MAUDE. What other people see as cloying hippie drivel I see as funny, smart, even satirical. When Maude, dressed from head-to-toe in black Victorian mourning lace, protests war all by herself on the side of the road, at the edge of a cliff, is to me a really astute comment on the all too prominent and largely ineffectual picketing culture of the 60s and 70s. Then, of course, there’s the love story, which is one of my all-time favorites (right alongside Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett). In Ashby’s director’s cut, we actually see Harold and Maude kiss, but it was deemed too controversial and cut out for the theatrical release (though you can still catch it in the original trailers).