A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
Humbert Humbert forces a confrontation with a man, whose name he has just recently learned, in this man's home. The events that led to this standoff began four years earlier. Middle aged Humbert, a European, arrives in the United States where he has secured at job at Beardsley College in Beardsley, Ohio as a Professor of French Literature. Before he begins his post in the fall, he decides to spend the summer in the resort town of Ramsdale, New Hampshire. He is given the name of Charlotte Haze as someone who is renting a room in her home for the summer. He finds that Charlotte, widowed now for seven years, is a woman who puts on airs. Among the demonstration of those airs is throwing around the name of Clare Quilty, a television and stage script writer, who came to speak at her women's club meeting and who she implies is now a friend. Those airs also mask being lonely, especially as she is a sexually aggressive and liberated woman. Humbert considers Charlotte a proverbial "joke" but ...Written by
A delicious, adult meditation on youth, obsession and sex.
This film remains my all-time favorite. It's a delicious, adult meditation on youth, obsession and sex. While not entirely faithful to the novel, it captures the book's spirit and is nonetheless a masterpiece on its own terms. To fully appreciate what Kubrick has done, compare this version to Adrian Lyne's anemic remake.
Kubrick chose his cast wisely for the most part. James Mason conveys both the tormented inner soul and the outwardly polite gentleman with such charm that you simply can't despise him for his treachery. Shelley Winters was never better as the shrill, man-hungry shrew. Sue Lyon is enormously credible in a complex role - physically attractive, childish at times in her behavior, but quietly calculating and manipulative. The weakest link is Peter Sellers, who Kubrick found amusing enough to let him run on too long. Sellers was a brilliant performer, but just not right for this film. As Quilty, he's fine. When masquerading as others, he's mostly intrusive and tends to alter the tone of what's going on.
The need to tread carefully around the censors in 1962 actually works in the film's favor. There's a sophisticated subtlety that counterbalances the lurid subject matter. In fact, I even prefer the edited-for-television version of the scene in which Humbert and Lolita first have sex. Here she merely whispers in his ear before a suggestive fade-out. In the complete version of the film, the scene continues with them discussing a silly game played at summer camp. The less said, the better.
"Lolita" has aged remarkably well. Its topic is relevant today, and the careful craftsmanship that went into this production holds up beautifully. I think it's Kubrick's best film - they tended to get more self-indulgent as time went on. This one's a gem. Not to be overlooked are the aptly provocative title sequence and Nelson Riddle's luscious piano score.
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