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GUY RAZ, HOST:

All summer long, we've been asking people who work in film to talk about the movie that changed their life, including this one from the writer of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PETER HEDGES: Hi. I'm Peter Hedges. I'm a writer/director. The film I've seen a million times and will watch a million more times is "Harold and Maude." It was written by Colin Higgins, directed by Hal Ashby, stars Bud Cort and the irreplaceable Ruth Gordon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T BE SHY"")

CAT STEVENS: (Singing) Just lift your head and let your feelings out instead.

HEDGES: "Harold and Maude" is a film I just keep finding myself rewatching.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Maude) Tell me, Harold. What gives you that special satisfaction?

BUD CORT: (as Harold) I go to funerals.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON THE ROAD TO FIND OUT")

STEVENS: (Singing) Then I found myself alone, hoping someone would miss me.

HEDGES: "Harold and Maude" is a love story about a young man Harold who is the child of a very wealthy mother.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

VIVIAN PICKLES: (as Mrs. Chasen) Really, Harold. It is time you settled down and stopped flitting away your talents on these little amateur theatrics, these little divertissements.

HEDGES: And he, for fun, fakes suicides and goes to funerals. And at one of these funerals, he meets an almost 80-year-old woman Maude who also loves to go to funerals.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

RUTH GORDON: (as Maude) Like some licorice?

CORT: (as Harold) No, thank you.

HEDGES: And they strike up an unlikely friendship and then fall in love.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

GORDON: (as Maude) Oh, Harold. You make me feel like a schoolgirl.

HEDGES: There's one moment in the film, which I've watched more than any moment in any film in history.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

JUDY ENGLES: (as Candy Gulf) Hello. I'm Candy Gulf.

PICKLES: (as Mrs. Chasen) How do you do? I'm Mrs. Chasen. Do come in.

HEDGES: The mother's brought, I think her name's Candy, home to meet Harold, and he passes by.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

PICKLES: (as Mrs. Chasen) Oh, there's Harold. Hello.

HEDGES: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

PICKLES: (as Mrs. Chasen) You are at the university.

ENGLES: (as Candy) Yes, I am.

PICKLES: (as Mrs. Chasen) And what are you studying?

ENGLES: (as Candy) Poli-sci with a minor in home ec.

HEDGES: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HAROLD AND MAUDE")

ENGLES: (as Candy) Harold!

HEDGES: She'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's looking and the mother's 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 he gets this devilish smile comes over his face, and then the piano starts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I THINK I SEE THE LIGHT")

HEDGES: For me, that moment was, I like, 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I THINK I SEE THE LIGHT")

STEVENS: (Singing) This world is not my home so there was nothing much to gain.

HEDGES: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU WANT TO SING OUT, SING OUT")

STEVENS: (Singing) Well, if you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free.

RAZ: That's writer/director Peter Hedges talking about the movie he could watch a million times, "Harold and Maude." Hedges' new film, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," opened in theaters this weekend.

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