Posted on 3/05/12 03:21 PM
The modern American public has been desensitized to controversial films. It seems as if no matter how much violence, language and sex is in movies, and even TV, nowadays is generally ignored by the parts of the audience that aren't stupid enough to bring their kids to rated-R fare. Director Stanley Kubrick was never an artist one to shy away from controversy.
Kubrick moved at a rate of at least one public shake up flick per decade from the 50s through 90s. Paths of Glory (1957) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) were anti-war, Dr. Strangelove (1964) was a comedy of the Cold War, A Clockwork Orange (1971) was a frighteningly prophetic meditation on violence and Eyes Wide Shut (1999) was a sexually fixated film full of nudity. Lolita is a Kubrick piece that also attracted great public controversy at its time of release in 1962.
Based off of a novel of the same name and adapted to the screen by its author, Kubrick and James B. Harris the exquisitely written script has a rather unfathomable subject. British Professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason) is looking for a place to stay in New Hampshire over the summer to prepare for his new college teaching job. He happens upon a widowed woman Charlotte Hayes' (Shelley Winters) home with a room for rent. He decides to stay in the house, and eventually marry Ms. Hayes. Not for love, but to be closer to her 15-year-old daughter, Lolita (Sue Lyons). Humbert's descent into growing obsession leads to some very memorable encounters and possibly a new outlook on life for everyone involved.
At the time, the Lolita poster's tagline was "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" This tale of sexual obsession, frustration and curious nymphets was as scandalous as a political sex scandal in the 1960s. The near pedophilic 'love' story betwixt the drastically age gapped couple is undoubtedly unsettling, but never quite as convincing and never as romantic as it was meant to be. Even if Lolita does miss that mark, the movie still has strong entertainment value with its pitch black humor that is still hilarious in 2011. Great macabre are hard to find fresh this day and age but Lolita still stocks a large amount surprisingly undated ludicrous laughs.
While Lolita gains points in the comedy department, as well the great acting of Mason, Lyons and the show stealing Peter Sellers as a mysteriously manipulative playwright, the film is a staggering two and a half hours in length. And due to the constantly growing intensity of Humbert's affection there are scenes that demonstrate his jealously and obsession that not only seem redundant, but also a little too creepy. Due to the censorship of the studios back in the day, the really visceral sexual desires of Humbert are never expressed quite as explicitly as they should be. Fluctuating between the extreme and the subtle of Humbert's wants would have been a more sufficient choice to make the film move a little more through its slow and redundant moments.
Looking back, Kubrick is the only director who really could have ever handled the poster posed proverbial of "making Lolita." Perhaps Kubrick's funniest black comedy, though certainly not one of his greatest works, Lolita is a cinematic treat for die hard Kubrick fanatics as well as connoisseurs of classic celluloid.
Reviewed by Ben Pieper on August 20th 2011