47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
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Stanley Kubrick, USA/UK 1962, 152 minutes
Kubrick's version of Vladimir Nabokov's novel should have been a masterpiece. The combination of Kubrick's technical mastery with Nabokov's witty, grotesque tale of illicit, underage lust should have been brilliant. Instead it is merely great. By raising the age of its pre-pubescent heroine, it loses much of its power to shock. A lot of the compelling dialogue from the latter half of the book never made its way into Nabokov's script but there is still much to be recommended.
James Mason brings to life the tragic figure of the erudite Humbert Humbert, a man driven by his lust for a rather slovenly, perverse nymphet. He even goes as far as to marry the young girl's mother to get closer to her. Peter Sellers turns up in a comical role as the rival for Lolita's attentions and manages to lighten the tone considerably in his scenes. Sue Lyon's inexperience shows in her portrayal of the strange child-woman Lolita who can't be sure whether she wants to be daughter or lover but it adds to the naiveté of her character, still uncertain of the world and yet promiscuous and confident on the surface. Kubrick cannot decide whether the film should be satire or comedy and it lacks a focus. It is also a good half an hour too long with some particularly tedious scenes in the latter reels. Even so, this film should not be overlooked as it represents the last highpoint of a genre that soon descended to the level of sex/thriller/ pseudo-psychodramas such as those churned out by Joe Eszterhas. And for those unacquainted with the book, it offers the chance to see what the story of Lolita is really about.
"Mason has never been better" - Variety
Review by Neil Chue Hong
Taken from EUFS Programme 1996-97