HAROLD AND MAUDE (Hal Ashby, 1971)
Sunday, February 7, 8:00
Series continues through February 18
New York City–based cinematographer and documentarian Kirsten Johnson has jumped into the spotlight with her latest nonfiction film, Dick Johnson Is Dead, which is garnering Oscar buzz; the film imagines multiple deaths for her father, who is suffering from dementia. The film was a follow-up to her 2016 autobiographical cinematic memoir, Cameraperson, which put her on the map after years of serving as director of photography for Laura Poitras (The Oath, Citizenfour), Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), and others. She is currently hosting “Kirsten Johnson Carte Blanche,” five specially selected films for Metrograph Digital, each uniquely dealing with life and death, including Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention, Yuval Hameiri’s I Think This Is the Closest to How the Footage Looked, Souleymane Cissé’s Yeelen, and Keisha Rae Witherspoon’s T.
On February 7 at 8:00, she will introduce a one-time-only live fiftieth anniversary screening of the existential cult fave Harold and Maude. Bud Cort (Harold) and Ruth Gordon (Maude) are magnificent in this glorious black comedy from director Hal Ashby (The Last Detail, Shampoo, Being There) and writer Colin Higgins (Foul Play, 9 to 5). Harold is an eighteen-year-old rich kid obsessed with death, regularly flirting with suicide. Maude is a fun-loving, free-spirited senior citizen approaching her eightieth birthday. Ashby throws in just the right amount of post-1960s social commentary, including a very funny antiwar scene, without becoming overbearing, as this could have been a maudlin piece of sentimental claptrap, but instead it’s far from it. Even the Cat Stevens soundtrack (“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” “Tea for the Tillerman,” “Where Do the Children Play?”) works beautifully. Harold and Maude is a tender, uproarious, bittersweet tale that is one of the best of its kind, completely unforgettable, enlightening, and, ultimately, life-affirming in its own odd way. While H&M will screen only on Sunday night, offering a respite from the Super Bowl frenzy, all the other films in “Kirsten Johnson Carte Blanche” will be available for several days after their initial livestream.