Harold and Maude
I watched Harold and Maude (dir. Hal Ashby) for the first time today (spoilers to follow). It really was a fantastic movie, but throughout, I kept on thinking how many of the themes and attitudes are echoed in the films of Wes Anderson. The hilariously somber character of Harold seems like he could have been portrayed by Rushmore-aged Jason Schwartzman. The subject of suicide, which is addressed with Harold’s repeated mock attempts as well as Maude’s own suicide, is paralleled by Richie Tenenbaum’s attempts in The Royal Tenenbaums and Francis’ attempt in The Darjeeling Limited. The attitudes towards suicide in both are compatible – they both embrace a cold, distant feeling of isolation mixed with other emotions which are indeterminate to the characters themselves.
I would also have to say that Anderson’s very distinctive framing techniques are influenced by Ashby’s technique in Harold and Maude. The geometric framing which Anderson uses is highly prevalent here, such as in the scene where Harold frets about Maude in a hospital waiting room (see first figure). By using the negative space of the walls and the floor along with the blockiness of the other objects in the frame, Ashby puts Harold in the corner of a geometric and emotionally distant room.
Another scene which stuck out at me was the scene where a funeral finishes and Maude in her yellow umbrella leads a line of black umbrella toting mourners through the cemetery (see second figure). Would this scene not have been so suited to Wes Anderson’s signature high frame rate super-slow motion? The film’s soundtrack, provided by Cat Stevens, is certainly in line with Anderson’s taste in soundtrack music, though it should be noted that, of course, this music was contemporary with Harold and Maude, whereas, in Anderson’s films it is intentionally used to reflect decades past. The late 60s/early 70s offbeat colors and unique designs epitomize the exact sort of aesthetic that Anderson likes to capture.
Anyways, another interesting (and probably intentional) Wes Anderson connection is that Bud Cort, who played Harold, was Bill Ubell (the accountant who is kidnapped by pirates) in The Life Aquatic. Apologies for harping on the apparent influence this had on Wes Anderson, but you’ll have to excuse me, as I’m white.
Completely unrelated, but enjoyable article from The Onion: Rob Neyer Invents Statistic To Measure Own Disenchantment With Baseball.
Arbitrary song of the day: Plaid – Kortisin