Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: James Mason, Sue Lyons
The trials and tribulations of a Sam Neil lookalike and Kenneth Williams soundalike
I’ve never read the novel of Lolita so I can’t comment on how much of the film is censored or toned down. I have of course heard of the various cuts Stanley Kubrick had to make in order to keep the censors happy, so perhaps it has slightly lost its power? Nevertheless, what we’re left with is a consistently entertaining little film about a man falling in love with a girl who’s barely a teenager. I was very impressed with how the film managed to portray the relationship without even showing the couple kissing. In fact, the cosiest the pair come is when Lolita grabs James Mason’s hand whilst watching Frankenstein in a drive-through.
Whilst the film is a hefty 150 minutes it never manages to bore. It is far longer than it needs to be and has some repetitive scenes which add very little to the overall experience, however I found myself always engrossed in what I was watching. I particularly enjoyed the first half which deals with James Mason hopelessly trying to start a relationship with our young nymphet. There are some darkly amusing encounters including some funny slapstick with a cot and a plot to murder the landlady.
The film is of course marvellously directed. It has the look of an early 60’s film, but the feel of something much bigger than that. Stanley has some lovely, inventive camera moves and the framing is always brilliant. Sue Lyons was also very magnetic in the role of Lolita. She kind of reminded me of Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks, there’s an innocent side and another side of a smouldering temptress. I was less impressed with James Mason as the one-dimensional bumbling, boring Englishman.
Lolita is a fantastic film and shows a steady progression from Paths of Glory. However, I still wouldn’t think at this stage that Stanley would have it in him to direct something as sensationally enigmatic as 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film certainly shows that Stanley loved a challenge and was willing to push Hollywood’s conservative boundaries. With Lolita he pushes them with style and entertainment. It may be a little wordy and long, but most films were like this in the 60’s.