Long time friends Jon Voight and Burt Young share a moment during the often moving tribute to the late, great director Hal Ashby (Coming Home, Harold and Maude) at the 2009 Sarasota Film Festival. Voight and Young co-starred in Ashby’s 1982 film Lookin’ to Get Out, the director’s cut of which was recently discovered in the UCLA Film Archives and world premiered in Sarasota the night before the tribute. Ashby’s daughter Leigh MacManus was on hand to accept the SFF’s Master of Cinema award on her father’s behalf and gave a stirring thank you speech wherein she spoke of never knowing her father and how much the closing moments of Lookin’ to Get Out meant to her. I won’t spoil the film for you (director’s cut out soon on Warner Home Video!), but suffice to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and both MacManus and Voight were brought to tears during the evening.
What could be better than watching Harold and Maude on the big screen? How about a funny and touching introduction by Jonathan Demme who reflected on his long term friendship with the film’s late director, Hal Ashby. At one point, taking an informal survey from the crowd, Demme asked who in the audience had never seen Harold and Maude before (a significant number) and who had never seen a Hal Ashby movie before (a relatively small number). Demme flashed a typically warm smile and warned the audience that they were in for quite a treat. Thanks to the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Young Friends of Film series, we got the opportunity to see the 1971 cult classic starring Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Cyril Cusack, Vivian Pickles, and Tom Skerritt in a small but unforgettable role. Also intrinsic to the movie’s greatness, the amazing Cat Stevens soundtrack. By the way, Paste Magazine recently published the rumor that the soundtrack will be finally available for the first time; hard to believe but apparently true. Look for it soon.