Peter Hedges' favorite scene from Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude
The weekends on All Things Considered series Movies I've Seen A Million Times features filmmakers, actors, writers and directors talking about the movies that they never get tired of watching.
For writer-director Peter Hedges, whose credits include What's Eating Gilbert Grape, About A Boy, Dan In Real Life and The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which opened in theaters this weekend, the movie he could watch a million times is Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude. "[It's] a film that I just keep finding myself rewatching," Hedges says.
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
Writer-director Peter Hedges
Writer-director Peter Hedges Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
On his favorite scene in Harold and Maude
There's one moment in the film, which I've watched more than any moment in any film in history. The mother's brought, I think her name's Candy, home to meet Harold and he passes by — he's walking out in the yard, he's got a sheet wrapped around him — and the mother is interviewing Candy about what her interests are. And Harold is out, and you can see him through the window, pouring gasoline all over his sheet covers and he pours gasoline all over himself. [Candy's] like, "Harold, Harold!" And then Harold appears.
"He enters the room behind her, and the mother says, "Here he is now!" And of course, the girl freaks out, as anyone would, goes running out of the room, and here's the moment, here's the moment that I watch repeatedly, because Harold is looking and the mother is looking — they're both looking at where this woman's run off in horror, screaming. And Harold turns to the camera, and he just looks right at the camera, and ... this devilish smile comes over his face and then the piano starts.
"For me, that moment, I watch it and watch it, I show it to my kids, I show it to anybody who will watch it, and say, 'That is cinema.'"
On what he's learned from watching the film
"There are sections of the film that I don't love. There are moments that really lift and elevate, and then there are parts that feel clunkier to me. But the totality of Harold and Maude is so much greater than maybe other films that are more perfect or look more beautiful or handle every moment more exquisitely. And that gives me a lot of comfort, that something doesn't have to be perfect to be exquisite. In fact, maybe it's better if it's not."