Czech auds gave Hal Ashby’s 1971 cult romancer “Harold and Maude” five minutes of sustained applause at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on Monday, bringing a tear to the eye of thesp Bud Cort.
Fest veterans reported never seeing such a response to a 36-year-old pic — but this one, and most others in fest’s New Hollywood section, is still unknown in the Czech Republic owing to Cold War censorship in the 1970s.
Journalists packed a conference room Tuesday to hear tales of how the pic, along with Monte Hellman’s “Two-Lane Blacktop” and Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” came together in the days before corporate marketing strategies drove production, when film was “provocative” and political, “covert or overt,” in the words of Cort.
Cort, Hellman and Cybill Shepherd, along with Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart and executive editor of features Steven Gaydos, shared tales of Hollywood in those days, including then-shocking nude scenes, creative risk-taking and a different world of moviemaking. One example offered was that Ashby’s tale of a teen’s affair with an 80-year-old woman was greenlit in a two-minute conversation in a car.
Hellman, who fascinated fest auds with his 1971 cult road movie, said, “It was a very unusual time … I’ve never before or after experienced being given final cut.”
Along with the collapse of the studio system, recalled Bart, the birth of revolutionary films was accompanied by rampant drug use.
Bart deadpanned that “better cinema resulted from a substantial intake of very good pot,” but he also added that “in the end, so many, like Hal, were defeated by drugs.”