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“Invitation to Dance - It’s a Dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the Dark. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?” --- Stephen King ::::::::::: MY CRITERIA FOR DISCUSSION ENCOMPASSES THE HORROR GENRE AND BEYOND, SO I USE THE TERM "NIGHTMARE MOVIES". SPOILERS CAN OCCUR WITH OR WITHOUT WARNING. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Lolita (1997)

April 7th 2009 02:15
Lolita (1997) movie poster
I championed this remake when it was (finally) first released in Australia two years after it had been completed (it suffered the same fate in America where it languished before finally being relegated to a Showtime cable television premiere and a subsequent brief art-house theatrical run). I saw a media preview and then had to wait. Initially it was banned in Australia, but eventually had an R18 slapped on it - and fair enough as its subject matter is highly controversial, but less so than the original novel.

Lolita (1997) is a tale of forbidden love, of carnal desire, of possession and obsession, of loneliness and the madness of unrequited love. It’s a modern tragedy and a brilliant movie, a rare example of a remake that is better than the original. Although I am very fond of Kubrick’s version, there is a poetic melancholy and an essence – both sensual and heartbreaking – that is evident in Adrian Lyne’s version that is diluted or missing in Kubrick’s original. Of course, Kubrick made his version in 1962, Lyne made his thirty-five years later. Still, Lyne suffered a lot of grief when his version was released, and in this even more sensitive climate (ten years on) of social networking sites and the proliferation of black market web porn, I doubt whether Lolita would be made with such high-profile stars and director.
Lolita (1997) Dominique Swain
Dominique Swain as Lolita
That’s not denying just how powerful and profound Adrian Lyne’s Lolita is. It captures such beautiful nuances of character and of a period in time (late 1940s). It plays as a melodrama, as an illicit romance, as a black comedy, as a thriller, and most notably, as a tragedy. The heady, heavy mixture of tones and textures is expertly handled by the excellent screenplay adaptation by Stephen Schiff (which stays truer to the source material than Kubrick’s), the often subtle, but artful, and at times incredibly provocative direction from Lyne, and, of course, by the superb casting and performances.
Lolita (1997) Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons as Humbert
Professor of English Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons) accepts an offer for a room to board with Charlotte Haze (Melanie Girffiths) and her precocious 14-year-old daughter Dolores (Dominique Swain). Dolores reminds Humbert of a lost adolescent love and he is immediately smitten with young Lolita (as he calls her in his diary and in the voice-over narration). But his infatuation swiftly becomes an obsession, which Lolita uses to her advantage, but which ultimately damages them both. In the background lurks another figure of a darker corruption, that of playwright Clare Quilty (Frank Langella)

Lolita (1997) Melanie Griffiths
Melanie Griffiths as Charlotte
Lolita (1997) Frank Langella
Frank Langella as Quilty
Jeremy Irons delivers one of his finest portrayals of the kind of character he does so damn well: the pathetic, but endearing intellectual on the slide. James Mason was very good in the original, but Iron’s Humbert Humbert is bang on. Curiously, Melanie Griffith, whom normally I can’t stand, captures the annoying qualities of Charlotte succinctly, with that high-pitched voice. Her final scene with Humbert is fantastic (in fact that whole scene including Humbert fetching drinks, receiving the phone call, then noticing Charlotte’s abandoned smouldering cigarette and the front door ajar, is one of the movie’s more exceptionally crafted moments).

Frank Langella as Quilty was inspired casting. His dulcet tones and physical presence, the cigar smoke and those linen suits. The confrontation between Quilty and Humbert is one of pure dark comedy, the tragedy momentarily offset by the absurdity of the situation. But most impressive of all is the performance of 15-year-old Dominique Swain as Dolores, or as Humbert describes; “Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-tah.” The role was originally offered to a young Natalie Portman who turned it down. As good as Portman has become, I doubt she could’ve pulled off the same air of awkwardness, grace, petulance, and sexual mischievousness, as Swain did. Swain has never managed to reach anywhere near the same calibre of acting as she did in Lolita. It was, quite simply, perfect casting.
Lolita (1997) Dominique Swain
Lo-lee-tah as Humbert first sees her ...
Lolita (1997) Emma Griffiths Malin
... Who reminds him of Annabel (Emma Griffiths Malin), his first love
Ennio Morricone’s beautiful and lilting score and Howard Atherton’s sumptuous cinematography add immensely to the movie’s atmosphere. The humidity exudes from the film, as Lolita’s adolescent mood-swings constantly affect the movie’s rhythm, just as Humbert’s desperation and paranoia (the law and the mysterious pursuer) begin to take a firm grip.
Lolita (1997) Dominique Swain
On the Region 4 DVD there is an excellent audio commentary from director Lyne, as well as an insightful casting session with Irons and Swain from 1995, and several deleted, but significant scenes, including one of Humbert contemplating murdering Charlotte in the lake (of which a shot from that scene of Charlotte walking the pier was used rather misleadingly for one of the original posters), a very provocative scene where Humbert is distracted by thoughts of a nude Lolita (a body double) lying alone in their hotel bed, and a disquieting moment where Humbert, after a violent confrontation in Quilty's mansion, discovers his jaded “harem” gathered in the kitchen.

Lolita (1997) Dominique Swain and Jeremy Irons
Publicity still
While Lolita is often considered a perverse tale (in author Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita is 12!), Lyne’s version doesn't wantonly exploit the inherent sexuality, nor is it designed for titillation (there are no direct sex scenes involving Lolita). Yes, it is very a very sensual movie; the camera turns sounds and inanimate objects into something more exquisite than they are. The use of close-ups on hands and feet; of the tactile element is vivid. But the movie is more importantly a tale of distorted beauty in a cracked dream. A man who realises he’s never quite recovered from a lost love, he’s a damaged soul; “The poison was in the wound, and the wound never healed.” He acknowledges his failings, yet is resigned to his fate. His redemption is denied him, and so he must pay the price. “… Despite the danger and hopelessness of it all, despite all that, I was in paradise; a paradise whose skies were the colour of hell-flames, but a paradise still.”

Adrian Lyne’s Lolita has aged well, which has an ironic tinge. It’s a modern cult classic; a “nightmare” of the saddest kind.

Here's a teaser trailer:

Here's a deleted scene which captures the movie's comedy, drama, sensuality and awkwardness, but above all the excellent performances of the two leads:


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12 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Lady Henrietta Muddling

April 7th 2009 02:39
Being as sick as I am, I had to stop reading Lolita.

I don't like jails.

What I do remember of the book was the whole page of her name and how he wanted the publisher to print it.

Nabakov was one sick puppy.

The sheer power of words to incite a man to do things he wouldn't normally do is so underrated.

Women cream their panties over words. And I'm not talking baking cakes here, Bryn. I'm not talking the Naked Chef who wears clothes, okay?

Anyway I'll be passing through Sydney later in the week. Wanna catch up for that beer?

Comment by Bryn

April 7th 2009 02:53
David, beer sounds good, but I'm rather busy leading into the long weekend, and then I'm out of town. Play it by ear. Drop me a message when you're actually in town.

Comment by Damo

April 7th 2009 03:01
I am a big of James Mason so if I was to watch either version it would be Kubrick's. Irons is a good actor not a brilliant one.

However film comes with the three syllables that turn me off right away "Con-tro-ver-sial" (make that 4 syllables).

Maybe I will catch the Mason version. I have heard a lot about it.

Comment by Lady Henrietta Muddling

April 7th 2009 03:04

it might be a Micky & Mallory fate thing. We're obviously not destined to meet.

I'll keep you in my prayers. When i get back to saying some.

Have a great Easter.

Comment by Bryn

April 7th 2009 05:40
Don't get me wrong, I love James Mason, but I simply prefer Jeremy Irons' interpretation of the character. I also beg to differ and think Irons is an amazing actor. Have you not seen Dead Ringers? Brideshead Revisited? Damage? He's made some poor choices, and I personally think he's a little over-exposed (in that Michael Caine kinda way), but I still rate him as one of my favourite actors of his generation. You should watch both versions definitely.

David, Destiny is a strange beast. Fate is even stranger. And have yourself an eggcellent Easter too. Although steer well clear of bearded carpenters in sandals.

Comment by Damo

April 7th 2009 05:48

For the next subject we could ask who is better Captain Kirk or the other fellow with the pommy accent.
I am probably put off by Iron's role in that Dragon Tamer film.

Comment by Bryn

April 7th 2009 06:54
Damo, LOL @ Trek humour. Yeah, well, that Ergo schmurgo crap is just one of the several poor choices Irons has made ... but then look at the crap Michael Caine made!

Comment by Damo

April 7th 2009 07:15
Michael Caine? You are cracking me up.
Start with Pulp then move onto The Hand.

Comment by Bryn

April 7th 2009 08:14
My point exactly.

Comment by Anonymous

December 6th 2010 04:38
looooove LOLITA! <33333333333

Comment by Anonymous

January 27th 2011 00:55
I totally agree with Bryn. Kubrick’s version lacked of something, the whole atmosphere was not in line with the one expected, Humbert Humbert didn't seem the same as the book.
Irons did a great job, we must just try to forget his interpretation in the (very) low quality/budget movie "Dungeons & Dragons" (the aforementioned Dragon Tamer film I guess).

I'll still say: Book > Lyne's > Kubrick’s , since I think that the story can't go enough in detail with a 2hrs movie and Lolita is made of details.

Comment by Anonymous

June 18th 2011 17:52
Lolita is the best ... I LOVE ...

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