Harold and Maude (USA, 1971)
Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack
Hal Ashby is the master of the slow-burning gem. His films aren't always the most visually remarkable, or the easiest to get into, but the longer you spend in the company of his characters, the more one's enjoyment turns into acknowledgement of greatness. While Harold and Maude is not quite as strong as his later efforts, such as Coming Home and Being There, it contains all the ingredients for a really heartfelt comedy, combining dark humour and joyful optimism to great effect.
Kind Hearts and Coronets, it is the cruelty of Dennis Price set against the persistent injustice of the British class system. In Dr. Strangelove, it is the absurdity of Jack D. Ripper's conspiracy theories set against the greater absurdity of Mutually Assured Destruction. Harold and Maude has darkness in the mind of its male protagonist, but its goal is to demonstrate how joyous life can be. While it doesn't resolve everything oh-so-neatly, it doesn't entirely play by the rules either.
(500) Days of Summer.
Heathers or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The interplay between Harold and his uncle is enjoyable, especially the running gags about his severed arm. And the final scene is emotionally close to the ending of Quadrophenia, delivering a good balance of anguish, uncertainty and fulfilment, all conveyed through the music of Cat Stevens.
Verdict: A slow-burning comic gem