While I’ve personally never been the biggest fan of director Hal Ashby – the renegade humanist whose birthday just passed – I’ll be the first to admit that his impact and relevance on cinema as a whole is undeniable. After all these years, Ashby remains one of the last true quintessential Hollywood outsiders: an icon of the counter-culture who, though he may never have achieved the near-universal recognition of New Hollywood peers like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, is nevertheless a symbol for a certain kind of idiosyncratic and deeply-personal filmmaking.
His best pictures, such as the bristling, poetically profane “The Last Detail” or his great Warren Beatty movie “Shampoo” – in this writer’s opinion, the director’s most soulful and accessible film – radiate a sort of wounded compassion for their screwed-up characters. Ashby also had a great gallows sense of humor that he would deftly deploy to offset the pathos and whimsy of many of his films, and though he was most certainly also a politically minded filmmaker, he never let didacticism inform the language of his cinema.
“Bits & Pieces” is a new supercut consisting of some of Ashby’s most memorable cinematic moments. There are snippets of some of the director’s most well-known and beloved pictures in the mix here, including some of the most iconic moments from “Harold and Maude,” perhaps the director’s most popular picture, and “Being There,” a winsome tale of middle age that helped to revitalize the career of Peter Sellers. Watching these clips all sewn seamlessly together, it’s pretty hard to deny that Ashby had a sensibility at his disposal and while that sensibility may not speak to me particularly, it’s not hard to see why his work has endured after all these years. You can see his influence in everything from Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” to the talky, philosophical comedies of Richard Linklater. It’s a fitting tribute to the late, revered artist, and a must-watch for fans.
Check out “Bits & Pieces” in its entirety below.