Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: James Mason,
Peter Sellers, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Audio: DTS HD Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 153 Minutes
Release Date: May 31, 2011
"I want you to live with me and die with me and everything with me!"
The subject matter of the novel Lolita was taboo enough for a book, and it seems
even more so for a motion picture. Oddly
enough, however, director Stanley Kubrick manages to maintain enough of a distance from
the actual subject to keep it from being a distraction in his film. When you get down to it, its not so much the
story of a perverse love affair as it is a self-destructive one.
James Mason plays one of the least popular protagonists in literary
history in Humbert Humbert. Hes a
professor from England on assignment in the United States, who ends up involved with a
spirited but somewhat goofy woman, Charlotte (Winters) and of course, her pretty but VERY
underage daughter, Lolita (Lyon).
Theres no point mincing words about the relationship that
evolves. It is wrong in every sense of the
word, and Humbert should know better, and we, the audience, know he should know better. So can we accept him as a character of sympathy? Strangely, yes.
Maybe because we can see long before he does that he is gingerly walking down a
doomed path. And although much of the film is
played for laughs, the ending is truly poignant, and we tend to look on Humbert not so
much as a man who entered into an unwholesome relationship, but more like the hapless
addict who knows his behavior is destroying him, but can no long help himself.
Winters is remarkable as Charlotte, in a delightfully comic role. (As an aside, she was considered a shoo-in for
Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, but she insisted on only being considered in the
Lead Actress category, which failed to garner her a nomination, since she was only in
about half of the film). And Peter Sellers is
brilliant as always as Quilty, the stalking playwright with an agenda of his own for the
little girl. Sue Lyon as Lolita does well in
her role, although she never was able to channel it into much of an acting career for
Ultimately, I think the film works because Kubrick really
doesnt seem to pass judgment on the characters.
Rather, he just shows us their natures, their strengths, their passions, and their
weaknesses, and lets their stories unfold, leaving it up to the viewer to decide for
himself what to think about them.
Now we're getting somewhere! From the shoddy initial DVD release to this Blu-ray is the difference between night and day. This is a gorgeous black and white transfer filled with detail I never noticed before in my countless times viewing the film. The contrast is beautiful, and Stanley Kubrick's imagery really benefits from high definition. In a scene where Humbert is writing and wearing a dark robe, now you can actually see the folds in the fabric. And that's just one example. Exhilerating!
This uncompressed DTS mix of the original mono soundtrack is fine, if
not spectacular. Dynamic range is at a minimum, and occasionally the music sounds a
tad thin, but dialogue is clear throughout, and there was little in the way of noticeable
Only a trailer, but its a fairly interesting trailer; one that
poses the question, How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?
Lolita will always be a controversial book and film because of its unpleasant and rather unwholesome subject matter, but dont let yourself be put off from viewing the film because of that. Its actually much tamer than you might expect, and centers less on behavior that is sick and perverse, and more on behavior that is weak and self destructive.