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Monday, October 25, 2010

Lolita (1962)

The Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the famous Vladimir Nabokov novel is a beautifully realized black comedy that keeps the spirit and intent of the Nabokov novel while differing from Nabokov's source material. Nabokov receives sole credit for the screenplay (though apparently very little of it survived the script to screen process) but it's Kubrick's handiwork behind the what see on the screen. The inspired use of bookending the film with the killing of Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers), a device not in the Nabokov novel, gives the film an almost film noir atmosphere which is only intensified by the performances of James Mason as the doomed Humbert and Sue Lyon as the nymphet femme fatale. Sellers is astonishing as the many faces of the perverse and perverted Clare Quilty, hilariously sly yet creepily threatening. Mason makes Humbert a tragic figure, letting us see his pain as well as his perversion. Even Shelley Winters as Lyon's mother, while a howling caricature, is given moments that let us see into her very real loneliness. The dialogue, full of innuendo, is witty and while this is Kubrick's LOLITA rather than Nabokov's LOLITA, the censorship restrictions of the day notwithstanding, this is the definitive cinematic LOLITA. With Lois Maxwell, Marianne Stone and Roberta Shore.

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