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Dramas > Lolita

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message 1: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Over the weekend I finally saw a movie I have heard about but had never actually seen.

Stanley Kubrik's "Lolita".
Despite the date (1962) and the controversial subject matter from Nabokov's shocking novel dealing with an older man's obbsession with his underaged step daughter. I was still shocked and surprised at how much Kubrick managed to put in his film and still be within the confines of the moral movie codes of that era.


Humbert Humbert (yes that is his name) played by James Mason, is a 40 something European intellectual, looking for a quiet summer residence before he goes to work at his university job in the fall. Humbert finds one of those small New England towns where everyone prides themselves on how open minded they are. When he is about to reject the room the potential landlady has just showed him (played by Shelley Winters) he is introduced to the landlady's curvacious nymphette daughter. We (I) was shocked at how much sex appeal Kubrick allows 14 year old Sue Lyon to project as the nymphette Lolita.

In the book, Lolita is supposed to be 12, but in the movie her age is never discussed, nevertheless we know she is extremely young and Humbert's (my) first site of her in a bikini is enticing and shocking.

Humbert's attraction to Lolita quickly gets out of hand and becomes more and more perverse as the movie progresses. It will soon become very interesting to see who is actually manipulating whom in this movie about an unnatural attraction. While Kubrick never shows Lolita and Humbert engaging in sex (unlike the 1997 movie) Kubrick does a great job letting us know they are engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship.

Peter Sellers as Clare Quinty, Humbert's nemisis is not to be missed, he is already showing us little glimpses of his other role in a Kubrick classic, Dr Strangelove.


message 2: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Sep 01, 2009 06:51PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I've read the novel twice and the film took me years to appreciate, and I now think it great film. Thanks for mentioning this Manuel because I need to watch again and write a review; it's been a few years since I last watched on DVD.
I recently watched John Huston's THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA and Sue Lyon basically played the same role, where Richard Burton's character allows himself to be corrupted by a teenager.
The crux of both stories is not that the minor girl is devious and manipulative; it's that the adult men should exercise better judgment. That is why people over 18 are held to a higher criminal standard than children. So to blame Lolita (or Lyon's character in NIGHT) is skewing the moral balance: of course, Nabakov wrote the book from Humbert's viewpoint so he had many justifications, most of which I've heard from child molesters that I've helped put in prison.


message 3: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments What I find so disturbing about the movie(s) is that we are made to feel almost sorry for Humbert. Yes he is the adult who should now better, he even admits to such in his hidden journal.

Some people have compared the story as an allegory of totalitarian governments that supposedly do things for the good of the state at the cost of individuality or personal accountability. Who knows?

It is due to Kubrick's inspired and subtle story telling that he could make such a movie in 1962, yet it looks very fresh even today. The 1997 movie had no restraints and could indulge in open titillation, which makes me appreciate Kubrick so so much more.


message 4: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Yes, the Kubrick version was much more risque without being overt: I love the line about Lolita needing to see a dentist and Quilty says that he can take care of all her cavities.
I think the quality of Art is to allow us insight into the human condition, to break our own boundaries of perception, and Humbert is made to be a symapthetic character much like Alex in CLOCKWORK: though neither is really deserving. It is easy to judge people's actions (that's what we do in Law Enforcement) but another thing entirely to judge a human being.


message 5: by Tom (last edited Sep 02, 2009 08:03AM) (new)

Tom | 5358 comments Alex, you're thinking of the moment where Charlotte is talking to Clare Quilty, reminding him of a tryst in their past, and she mentions that his Uncle Ivor is her dentist, and that he filled her cavity. Quilty's laughing response is one of my favorite Sellers moments, one of the most spontaneous moments he ever had onscreen.

It took me a long time to get to appreciate LOLITA. I first saw it when I was waaaaaay too young, and didn't get it at all. Repeat viewings and a good deal of growing up later have increased my respect and affection for it. LOLITA is one of the best acted films around, I think, from Shelley Winters' shrill yet pathetic Charlotte to Sellers' smirking Quilty, and above all Mason's pathetic Humbert. Mason was never so vulnerable as he is in this role, is he?


message 6: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments That's it Tom, it has been a while since I've seen it but that scene was fantastic. Yeah, the way Seller's responds is just classic. Now you guys have put me in the mood to watch this again; fortunately I own the DVD but I was waiting for a blu-ray release...seems I'll be waiting a long time.


message 7: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Perer Sellers is an absolute joy to watch in this movie.
It makes perfect sense why Kubrick would feature him in "Dr Strangelove".


message 8: by Phillip (last edited Sep 02, 2009 05:12PM) (new)

Phillip | 10611 comments nice comments fellahs. i like the film more than the book, because when you read the book nabokov (brilliantly, perhaps, but relentless nonetheless) really forces you to hang in there with humbert's obsession. it's a kind of forced voyeurism i wasn't comfortable living with. but the movie takes a more distant, critical stance on humbert.

tom, i totally agree: one of the best acted films around and these are not particularly sympathetic characters....and yet i find myself sympathizing with just about everyone in the film. somehow kubrick portrays a humanity across the board.


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