Film Review: Lolita

Lolita, directed by Stanley Kubrick, does not have the scope like most of his pictures: It’s a soft, dark comedy in the later tradition of a Coen film. Starring James Mason, Peter Sellers, and Sue Lyon as Lolita, it is about sexual temptation and restriction, chronicling the slow and evolving lust of Humbert, (Mason), towards Lolita, the young daughter of a woman whose husband’s death has left her emotionally-stunted and desperate. Hubert is a sullen and respectable scholarly-type, a proffesor of poetry; he keeps a diary about his stay with the Hazes, avoiding Charlotte and day-dreaming about Lolita.

My favorite scene in Lolita happens right at the beginning: an unknown character dressed in a raincoat walks into a bachelor’s pad, stepping on wine-glasses and party nick-knacks. He has a pistol in his hand and he finds Claire Quilty, the famous author, laying on a chair, hungover. The whole scene is a parody of film-scenes where a gun is being pointed at an armless man. Quilty plays a song for the gun-wielder, asks him if he wants a drink, and just makes a mockery of his position of power, when he’s supposed to be begging for his life.

The performances in Kubrick’s Lolita are all fantastic, especially the young Lolita, a rebellious teenager who her mother eventually impulsively sends to an all-girl boarding school. Humbert can’t hold out without Lolita around any longer: who knows how he will react to her leaving. Darkly funny, engaging, and still somehow true, “Lolita” is a sad story of a man desperate for a young woman’s affection, to the point of her being an object needing to be won.

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