Harold and Maude and Analysis

Report
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971)
Director: Hal Ashby
FILM ANALYSIS
 Analysis – the act of taking apart something complicated to figure out
what it is made of and how it all fits together
 Describe how something works
 How the parts contribute to the whole and produce meaning
 Recognize the many tools and strategies filmmakers use to tell stories,
convey information and meaning, and influence emotions
 Begin to see movies as a reflection and expression of the time and
place (or culture) that produced them
TYPES OF ANALYSIS
 Formal analysis – Looking at how techniques like camera angles, camera
position or proximity, staging of a scene, lighting, sound, or editing work to
create meaning or move us emotionally
 Thematic analysis – Looking at how the movie explores an idea or set of
ideas. Example: X-Men films often look at how difference makes people
outcasts.
 Cultural analysis – Looking at how a movie reflects the culture that produced
it. How does it reflect the values and assumptions of a particular time and
place?
 Genre analysis – Looking at how film functions within a traditional category
of films, including how it complicates or challenges that tradition.
TYPES OF ANALYSIS
 Biographical analysis – Looking at how a film is a reflection of the experiences,
values, needs, or desires of its director and/or writer.
 Ideological analysis – Looking at how a film expresses a particular political
point of view or belief system.
 Character analysis – Looking at the wants, needs, and desires of a character;
describing what motivates the character and makes him or her unique.
 Comparative analysis – Using any or all of the above approaches to compare
two different films, characters, directors, etc.
TOWARD AN IDEOLOGICAL/CULTURAL
ANALYSIS OF HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971)
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971)
DIR: HAL ASHBY
 Film was a product of late
1960s counter-culture
 Counter-culture is the idea
that there exist a subculture
or subgroup that opposes
the direction and
assumptions of the larger,
culture and/or those in
charge
 Anti-Vietnam War
movement was a counterculture movement
VIETNAM WAR DEATHS BY YEAR (1967-1970)
 Peak of war measured by American deaths
 1967 : 11,363
 1968 : 16,899
 1969: 11,780
 1970: 6,173
Vietnamese deaths from 1965-1975
 800,000-1.1 million
THE VIETNAM WAR
 Every single night on the TV news
(remember, only 3 stations!) the U.S. and
Viet Cong deaths were announced
 This started as the result of a U.S.
Government policy that attempted to
create support for the war by showing
quantified, numeric “evidence” for U.S.
success
 The most famous of those news
presenters was Walter Cronkite
 Note the mention of Cronkite in the film
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971)
DIR: HAL ASHBY
 Harold and Maude as anti-establishment/counter-culture film
 Anti-establishment – “opposed to or working against the existing power
structure or mores, as of society or government” (Dictionary.com)
 To challenge an existing power structure and its policies and practices
 To challenge the values (or mores) of a society
 Artists can be anti-establishment by aligning themselves with
revolutionary movements or simply by rejecting the values and beliefs of
the larger culture
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO HAROLD
AND MAUDE
oQuestions toward an ideological analysis:
 What is the political/ideological point of view expressed by this film? What does
this film want it’s audience to believe?
 What are the scenes/moments that help the filmmaker express this point of
view?
 How does the director use filmic techniques (music, camera angles, editing, etc.)
to reinforce his point of view?
oPossible claims:
 Harold and Maude is an anti-war film
 Harold and Maude is an anti-establishment film or a work of counter-culture
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO HAROLD
AND MAUDE
oQuestions toward a thematic analysis:
 What are one or more ideas or concerns explored by this film?
 On the literal level this film is about two characters who form a strong friendship,
but what is the film about underneath the surface?
 What is the implied (hinted at) meaning behind the action?
 What is one fundamental Conflict of human existence explored by this film?
oDo NOT confuse theme with “moral” or message.
oSome films push instructive or inspirational themes, but thematic analysis
does not demand that we reduce a film to simple positive message
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO HAROLD
AND MAUDE
oPossible themes (Harold and Maude is about…):
 Friendship
 Society’s expectations
 Alienation
 Love
 The Individual vs. Institutional Power
 Others?
o Evidence comes from the details of scenes and interactions between
characters
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO HAROLD
AND MAUDE
oQuestions toward a genre analysis:
 What kind (type, genre) of film is this?
 What does it have in common with other films of its type?
 How does it challenge or subvert the conventions of this film genre? How
does it break the rules?
 Does it demand it’s own category?
oPossible claims:
• Harold and Maude as Romantic Comedy
• Harold and Maude created the category of _________________
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO HAROLD
AND MAUDE
oQuestions toward a formal analysis:




How does the film use sound and music for effect?
How does the film use camera techniques (close-ups, wide shots, high
angle, low angle) to create meaning or reinforce theme?
How are characters and objects arranged in relations to each other
(staged) in order to create meaning or reinforce theme?
How does the film use costuming and makeup to create meaning or
reinforce theme?
ANALYTICAL APPROACHES TO HAROLD
AND MAUDE
oQuestions toward a comparative analysis
 How is the film like another film on the basis of the way it looks, the themes it
explores, it’s ideological point of view, it’s tone, the use of particular
techniques, a particular character, or how it functions within a set of genre
conventions? How does it diverge from that film?
 Does one film show the influence of another?
oPossible directions:
Compare this film to a film by Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands)
or Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore)

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