Friday, February 17, 2006:

DJ Shadow -- Six Days (Soulwax mix)

Harold (not Maude)
DJ Shadow -- Six Days (6 MB .ogg)
DJ Shadow -- Six Days (Soulwax mix) (10.4 MB .mp3)
I first saw Harold and Maude about six years ago, when living with a Muslim roommate who didn't much care for it. As an agnostic I had fewer compunctions about it; I found something wonderfully liberating in watching the relationship between them and its effect on Harold. It's one of the few romances I love (along with Tootsie and, well, Tootsie), mostly because I loved the quirky tone of the film: dry, macabre, satirical, with the occasional broad humor (the policeman and the gun) and the points where the director abandons verisimilitude altogether (the yodeling, the piano playing).

Over the years I've changed a bit and my appreciation of the film has waxed and waned with it. I've gone from finding Maude's philosophy liberating to finding it vapid and silly to finding that it's not especially important what I think of it, that what's important is what Harold thinks of it.

And then there are some of the details that more observant people caught much sooner:
  • Why Harold is faking so many suicides, and why he goes to funerals for fun
  • The relevance of the lyrics to the film (Cat Stevens wrote some of the songs specifically for the soundtrack, and left them available only in the film for decades)
  • Harold pulling out his pocketbook to bribe the policeman (this after Mrs. Chasen's opening story about Harold's father floating nude down the Seine and the enfluence and d'argent needed to take care of things afterwards)
  • Bud Cort (not Harold--I doubt this was in the script) dinging himself in the head with the shovel when he gets on the motorcycle
  • The Romeo and Juliet inversion in the dating scene, with Harold lifting his head up after his staged suicide, and its ties to the ending: Juliet with the poison, Romeo again "awakening"
  • Maude's story about Frederick--"so serious," she says, smiling, her eyes brimming with tears. "A doctor at the university. In the government." In Vienna. And then, later: this shot less than two seconds long in a ninety-minute film:
    Maude's tattoo

It's masterful work: the story, the acting, the direction, and especially the editing at the end.

Its use of Romeo and Juliet puts me in mind of the richness of story, of source material, of Ebert's frequent adage that it's not what a movie is about but how it's about it. Expanding outward: it's not what art is about but how it's about it. And it's handy to have rich samples to work with.

The "Six Days" from Private Press is in .ogg format because I converted it years ago when I was using WinAmp; since then I've misplaced the CD (no doubt to find it whenever I finally move--cowering, or perhaps armed and ready to pounce, underneath some stack of papers). The remix is from Private Repress, which is about what Private Press is about in much the same way that Romeo and Juliet and Harold and Maude are both about a man and a woman having a hard time of things.
[Private Press]
[Private Repress]

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i don't think i had ever seen/noticed/heard of that number-tattoo shot. Huh.

What you say about yr response to Maude's philosophy is very wise.

I think I'd seen the film half a dozen times before I noticed it. Harold definitely notices it, and knows what it means--you can see it in his expression when he looks up.

It's all very quick, in the scene where they're sitting together outside near sunset (not the one where he gives her the ring).

Incidentally, there's another shot of that scene that's in one of the previews on the DVD but that didn't make it into the film (no, I didn't Photoshop that).

Oh, and thanks, Sean. Very kind. :-)

Oh, Tuwa, you've hit on one of my all-time favorites. Harold and Maude is one of those films I'd take with me to the deserted island. I still daydream about writing a biography of Hal Ashby.

Now that is a wonderful writeup. Thank you for sharing.

... I have still, sadly, seen only Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, and Being There. Ashby's worth exploring more, though, and your writeup is another prompt to get on it. :-)

I only saw Harold and Maude at a critics screening before its original release. I thought it was hilarious and was surprised that it flopped. As for Ashby, he was consistent from The Landlord through Being There, after that, not so good.

In answer to a posting at Girish's, I haven't seen Peeping Tom in years, but I still think about it from time to time.

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