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"The novel of "Lolita" has justly been called one of the best works written in the English language since Shakespeare. The fact that its author was not a native speaker of English makes his achievement all the more amazing. "Lolita" simply must be read, and any attempts to convert it to the medium of film must inevitably suffer in comparison. That said, Adrian Lyne's film is as close to perfect a translation from book to screen as one could hope to find. The performances are pitch-perfect: Dominique Swain, in her first film role captures the essence of Nabakov's creation, at once gangly and seductive; endearing, infuriating and a definite "starlet". The viewer, like Humbert, is quickly wooed and won. Melanie Griffith gives her small role as Charlotte a tarnished dignity and a weary grace, and Frank Langella does what he can with the enigmatic, barely-seen Quilty. But Jeremy Irons simply carries the film. Known for plumbing baser human emotions in all his films, he embues Humbert Humbert with a simple humanity that is heartbreaking to watch. To admit to liking Humbert even a little is uncomfortable--it means empathizing on some level with the force that drives him, even as we may be disgusted by his actions, but it is impossible not to be charmed. Irons drops his customary reserved demeanor to mine the humor in the role, and his voice-overs of dialog straight from the book are most effective.This film version succeeds where Stanley Kubrick's 1962 version failed in remaining true to the spirit of Nabakov's vision. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's just a shame that the self-serving hypocrisy of the studio heads involved prevented its American theatrical release when so much commercial swill packed with violence and degradation of all kinds passes for entertainment in this country."
Bruce Kendall | Southern Pines, NC | 05/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Beginning with one of the most famous opening lines in literary history ("Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta.") we are introduced once more to the inimitable Humbert Humbert and his elusive quest for the Holy Grail in the form of "nymphness" personified. And oh what a sordid sorry trek it is, taking him and his young orphaned charge to some of the seamier spots of a fifties era American landscape. To cheap hotel rooms in little podunk towns where he can for a few fleeting days share a bit of privacy with his nubile naiad. Then of course, we follow the happy pair to the final confrontaion with one Clare Quilty, the only character in cinema/literary history who could make a pedophile like Humbert Humbert look wholesome by comparison. Remakes of movies always draw varying responses. Many critics and viewers were reluctant to favor this 1997 Adriane Lyne/Stephen Schiff/Jeremy Irons remake to the Kubrick/Nabokov/James Mason 1962 original. It's hard to argue when a novelist of the stature of Nabokov had such a direct hand in writing the screenplay (Kubrick was an uncredited co-author). Surely the work's creator would be better able to realize his vision cinematically? Yet, I believe the later film actually does a much better job in capturing the essence ot the novel. It boils down to casting. Shelley Winters was probably more right for the role of Lolita's Mom, Charlotte Haze, than was Melanie Griffith (almost universally described as the weakest link in the remake). That role aside, however, I think that every casting choice in the '92 version was spot-on. Irons, though he doesn't conjure up the physical characteristics of the Humbert that comes across in the novel, nevertheless did a better job than Mason in conveying Humbert's rakish libertinism. I'm so glad Dustin Hoffman, originally considered for the role, didn't land the part. This is amongst Irons' strongest performances. Dominique Swain, chosen over thousands of hopefuls who tried out for the part of Lolita, is the embodiment of all things young and lovely. I thought she also did a much better job than Sue Lyons at capturing the childish petulence that underlies most of the 12-year-old Lol's actions and reactions. She's just more believable, thanks in large part to Lyne's expert direction. Frank Langella was also much more convincing as Clare Quilty, a truly despicable fictional character, if there ever was one. Peter Sellers, due to his indelible comedic cinema persona, just could not come across as all that menacing on screen. He did, in fact, play the character for laughs, so the final confrontation came off more as farce and lost its effect. Finally, while Kubrick is one of the greatest directors in cinema history, he may have not been best suited for this particular novel. Plus, the era he was working in was much less conducive to a fully realized treatment of such touchy subject matter. He'd hit his comedic stride two years later, with Dr. Stragelove. Lyne had a bit more artistic leeway, although the history of the film's distribution was still rather bumpy, to say the least. Lyne has now come up with two of my favorite relatively recent films, this and the 1990 Horror film, Jacob's Ladder. He's another in what's become a rather large batch of excellent contemporary British directors. Please give this, his masterpiece thus far, a try. BEK"
A beautiful, carefully crafted movie.
aelwen | 12/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a moment in Adrian Lyne's LOLITA that effectively captures the twisted, yet surprisingly innocent feeling that Vladimir Nabokov wanted to portray with his novel. When Lolita, wonderfully played by newcomer Dominique Swain, is rushing up the stairs to say goodbye to Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons), before she leaves for summer camp, you realize that the look of excitement in Jeremy Irons face, and the nervous posture he has is that of an innocent child in love.Indeed it is true that Humbert is a child at heart, a fact which becomes clear early in the movie, when we learn a little bit about Humbert's first encounter with love and its subsequent painful and unexpected loss.It seems impossible to not compare Lyne's version with Stanley Kubrick's version, made over 35 years ago. I have to admit that I am an avid Kubrick fan, and that I always thought his version of Nabokov's novel, if not faithfully reproduced, was a classic. So it was that with apprehension (and some morbid curiosity) I decided to watch Lyne's version. Boy was I blown away.It is a terrible thing that our society as a whole, at this day and age, can't see pass the taboo that apparently clogs the story. It is sad because Lyne's LOLITA is an excellent and beautiful film in every respect. From Lyne's carefully crafted visual style, to the outstanding performance given by both Swain but especially by Irons (this is his movie), to the heart-breaking music score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone. Everything is in place here.It is clear that Lyne has a profound understanding of the novel, he successfully directs the story in a way the slowly engulfs you and never seems to fall into the traps that plagued Kubrick's version. There are a great many things that you will discover in this movie, not the least of which is the realization that, deep down inside, there is a place in each and everyone of us where love seems to have no age. In the end you understand the reasons behind the story, you will see Humbert's joy reflected in your eyes and his tears will fall down your face, but perhaps most shocking of all, you will feel like him.Please, do yourself a favor and see this movie on DVD. Trimark has done an excellent job by including a very insightful commentary track by Adrian Lyne, a wealth of deleted scenes (some of which I wish were on the film), theatrical trailers, and perhaps the most wonderful feature of all, a casting session with Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain, where you see them rehearse a scene, and later get to see the final scene. Highly recommended."
View this splendid film, but read the novel too.
A Viewer and Reader | Frankfort MI USA | 11/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nabokov's "Lolita" is a masterwork of psychological fiction of such complexity that one marvels that it could be rendered into film, but Adrian Lyne's version is a splendid success. Jeremy Irons is perfectly cast as Humbert. His superb portrayals of obsession include: Damage, Dead Ringers, M. Butterfly, Swann in Love, and Betrayal, so it is not surprising that he is so convincing as Humbert. What is astounding is the chemistry between Irons and Dominique Swain as Lolita. Swain who had no previous acting experience simply either cues off Irons or puts her own natural instincts as a fourteen year old in Director Lyne's hands and delivers not only a stunning nymphet portrayal, but its destructive effect upon her life.In the novel Humbert maintained he, "...had the utmost respect for ordinary children with their purity and vulnerability....But how his heart beat when, among the innocent throng, he espied a demon child...maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many time older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is demoniac)". It is this delusional obsession of his that traps Lolita. Ultimately in the depths of his remorse and self-hatred for what he has done to her,and to cleanse himself of his obsession, he murders the debauched Quilty,who has "cheated me of my redemption". Viewers will want to read the novel to experience Nabokov's marvelous art and the full range of Humbert's ironic intricate character."
LOLITA will one day receive its due denied it at present.
Mr Anthony K. Walker/anthonykarl@aw | Christchurch, England. | 04/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Adrian Lyne`s LOLITA will one day receive its due from film historians as the greatest cinematic work of the last two decades of the 20th century: a prize denied it at the moment as we war with one another over how we are to face sexual and social reality. As Maurice Girodias wrote of the novel "Lolita": "I sensed that LOLITA would become the one great modern work of art to demonstrate once and for all the futility of moral censorship and the indispensable role of passion in literature." So does this speak also for Lyne`s film. Jeremy Irons, as Humbert, opens the film with words from Nabokov`s novel. As he first catches sight of Lolita (Dominique Swain), the camera focusses slowly and lovingly on her form as she reclines on the lawn, surrounded by the wetness, lushness, humming honey-dew freshness of the garden; reading a book, from which she looks up at Humbert and smiles tenderly, tauntingly, knowingly - radiantly. She returns to her book, but with a smile of realization; aware of him yet far from troubled; silently already conspiring with him. Thus we meet Dominique Swain, proving herself already in this opening scene one of the most accomplished actresses of our time. The camera moves to dwell on her feet, raised behind her as she lies reading, glistening against a backdrop of floral beauty; nature wordless, far more eloquent than words. The camera frequently focusses lovingly and interestingly on her feet. In a later scene she sits beside him on the veranda of the Haze house, and Miss Swain is so skilful an artiste that her movements and mannerisms are not at all feigned, but are the natural movements, expressions and mannerisms of the girl she plays, as though the camera were not there. The carefree jerking of her bronzed legs and arms against his; the brush of her hair, carelessly and as if unknowingly against his cheek. Her smile lights up the screen. Her eyes mock society: its bigotry, its prejudice. ... "I should call the police and tell them you raped me, you dirty old man," she tells Humbert later, smiling tauntingly and affectionately, her retainer showing, making him smile too. She asks "Want to see my chin wobble?", and wobbles it, making us with Humbert want to press our face, laughing, against hers. She takes her retainer from her mouth and drops it in his drink while her mother has left to get some ice. Frantically, he has to fish for it and get it back in her mouth before her mother sees. He also has to quickly dispose of her bubble-gum and pop it into his own mouth before her mother espies it. As out and out bigots condemned this movie for its frankly realistic portrayal of love, so many of its half-hearted defenders displayed cowardice in their would-be sympathy, disowning and neutralising it with: "...Of course, we know what Humbert is doing is wrong," and "... Of course, we cannot sympathise with him."! And other such timid sell-outs and non-committal verbiage. (Together with the academic so-called "psychopathological analyses" etc., which are all so much garbage, and which Peter Sellers` Quilty in the original Kubrick film version mocked so well!)A truly great film - one of the most moving and realistically performed of all time - and a superb work of art for the more enlightened people of the future to appreciate much better than we today are able to!Anthony Walker."