The world's greatest movie blog, The House Next Door, has footage of a talk Jonathan Demme gave at a Valentine's Day screening of Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude. I am aware that this film is well-regarded by any number of people, but I admit to being utterly baffled by the largely positive reputation it continues to enjoy.
The 70s produced an awful lot of great films -- as far as I'm concerned, the era between Bonnie and Clyde and Taxi Driver is cinema's best -- but Maude is a symbol of everything that's awful about the free-love hippie ethos of the era. It's unforgivably smug, crude, obvious, naive, and stylistically shallow -- and I say this as a near feverish booster of Wes Anderson. I felt the same way about Ashby's Being There (despite my generally favorable inclination toward anything with Peter Sellers), a sort of proto-Forest Gump that was equally cloying and self-satisfied. I saw both Maude and Being There movies during film courses in college, and on both ocassions I seemed to be the only person who wasn't smitten with Ashby's cutesy narcissism.
In a weird way, he reminds me of Edward Zwick, another director who irritates me to no end. The problem with both directors is a complete lack of self-awareness combined with a monstrous self-obsession. Both filmmakers evince an inflated sense of self worth combined with an obliviousness to what they're actually doing.
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