Tag Archives: films

Lolita: Novel, 1962 Film and 1997 Film

Recently for class I had to experience Lolita in its three most popular forms — the original 1958 novel by Vladimir Nabokov and the two film adaptations, the 1962 version directed by Stanley Kubrick and the 1997 version directed by Adrian Lyne.

Novel

The 1958 novel doesn’t really need any introduction from me.  It’s considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, with one of the most controversial characters and storylines in literary history. I read it for the first time last year (review found here) and wasn’t surprised that Robertson Davies once wrote that the ‘them is not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child.’

The protagonist and narrator, the pathetic Humbert Humbert, is so clever and funny that you’re momentarily willing to put his transgressions in the background and go along for the ride.  Momentarily, of course.

1962 Film

The 1962 film by Kubrick was an interesting one.  It starred James Mason as Humbert, Sue Luon as Lolita, Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze and Peter Sellers as Claire Quilty.  The screenplay was attributed to Nabokov (and he actually got an Oscar nomination for it), but in reality it was mostly re-written by Kubrick and James Harris.  Nabokov published his version of the script separately in 1974.

The 1962 Lolita was a product of its time, unfortunately, meaning it was heavily held back by censors.  Needless to say, Kubrick is no prude (one only has to watch Eyes Wide Shut) to know that, but his version of Lolita was very tame, with almost none of the sexual innuendos littered throughout the novel — in fact, there was very little physical contact between Lolita and Humbert, the scenes often fading to black before anything happens.

Kubrick in fact said that if he could have done it again he would have emphasised the erotic aspect of the novel with the same weight Nabokov did, and that if he knew censors were going to be so tight he might not have made the film at all.

I liked the 1962 film a lot.  I wouldn’t say it’s one of Kubrick’s best efforts but considering what he had to work with I think it was a splendid effort.  The film managed to capture both the tortured soul of Humbert and his cunning.  Obviously, it was impossible to replicate nuances of the book, but Kubrick came closer than I could have imagined.

I don’t know if this is a complaint, but Quilty was given a much bigger role in the film than the novel, which threw me off a bit.  He didn’t really feel like a character that deserved more screen time in the book, but I guess because Sellers played him Kubrick decided to give him free reign to do his impersonations.

The other thing was Sue Lyon’s Lolita.  It was a good performance but she looked too old to be the target of a paedophile.  I thought she could have easily passed for 18, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

1997 Film

This one, directed by Adrian Lyne (who was at the helm of 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and later, Unfaithful) was made at a much more liberal time, so it was more explicit in the eroticism.  It was also more faithful to the original as Stephen Schiff, the first time screenwriter who penned the script, lifted a lot more dialogue directly from the book and had more voiceovers from Jeremy Irons (who interestingly also voiced the audio book version of the novel).

On the other hand, this was a completely different film that didn’t capture any of the black comedy of the novel.  It’s beautifully shot, with long, sweeping scenes and this tender, moody tone.  As some critics pointed out, Lyne seemed to have missed the point of the novel, creating a pure tragedy that’s all emotional torture and no fun.

I think it’s unfortunate that people will always inevitably compare adaptations and ‘remakes’ with what has come before it.  It’s human nature, I suppose, but is it entirely fair?  Why can’t we judge them as separate and distinct works of art?

I didn’t really enjoy the 1997 version, but I could definitely appreciate the aesthetics of it.  Jeremy Irons is always good to watch on screen, and Dominique Swain showed so much promise in her first role — what ever became of her?

But anyway, I found it interesting that a lot of my classmates found the subject matter difficult to digest.  They weren’t able to read and enjoy the book because mentally they could not separate the fiction from the reality and repulsion of paedophila.  Stylistically, many also thought Nabokov was overrated, too clever for his own good and a bit of a one trick pony (at least in this book).  They thought maybe, and there’s probably sliver of truth in this, that the book has done so well because of the subject matter as opposed to the masterful writing.  I dunno.  I’m still mightily impressed by the man’s wordplay and the confidence with which he can weave sentences in a language that’s not his first.

Will Lolita ever be remade again?  I assume it will be, eventually.  Maybe someone like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen would be a good choice to direct a movie about paedophila?

Top 10 Films of 2010!

Okay.  Finally.  About time.  Of the 110+ movies I watched that were released in Australia in 2010, here is my top 10.

A couple of things to note up front.  First, a movie is only eligible if it was released to the public in Australia (whether at the cinema or DVD) in 2010, which rules out films such as The Fighter and Black Swan (films I’ve seen advanced screenings of but are not yet released here).  I was tossing up whether The Next Three Days or Unstoppable ought to be included because they’re technically not eligible (but I watched them overseas), but neither made the top 10 so the point is moot.  Secondly, I didn’t just go with the star ratings from my initial reviews on this blog — with more time for reflection, my opinions and thought processes may have changed.

So here goes!  My Top 10 Films of 2010!

(to see the list click on ‘more…’)

Continue reading Top 10 Films of 2010!

Is it worth paying extra for 3D?

One thing that’s really been annoying me lately is the extra price movie-goers have to pay to enjoy a film in 3D.  Where I’m from, there’s the “normal” price of the ticket, and on top of that there is the arbitrary price for the 3D, and then there’s the additional cost of the 3D glasses.  Some theatres allow 3D glasses to be reused, but others require you to purchase a new pair each time.  When you add it all up, the movies are getting ridiculously expensive these days.

Now if it is a genuine 3D film, like say Avatar (or even The Final Destination), where the experience is truly enhanced because of the 3D effects, I don’t have a huge problem with that.  You pay for it with extra cash and discomfort from wearing the glasses for the entire duration of the film, but it’s ultimately worth the trouble.

But the last two “3D” films I watched, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, both felt like they were riding the 3D tidal wave for a bit of extra box office income.  I was appalled by how little the so-called 3D effects added to the films.  Arguably, I would have enjoyed them more had I watched in ordinary 2D, without the irritating glasses frames, the darker tint of the lenses, and me taking taking them off constantly wondering whether I had accidentally walked into the 2D version.

So from now on, I’m going to be a 3D sceptic.  No more watching films in 3D if those effects have been added in post-production in order to ride the 3D bandwagon — unless, of course, someone tells me I’d be missing out on something amazing.