Dir: Stanley Kubrick
November 1, 2009
This film is way more interesting to me than than anything else Kubrick did around this period, even the (in my opinion) overrated Dr. Strangelove (1964). I'm sure that this film (considering it's a Kubrick) has been fawned over and analyzed thoroughly, so I'll keep this short. Lolita (the film, possibly not the book) is really about the depravity of two men, Humbert Humbert (James Mason) and Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers). Mason really has one of the greatest performances ever, his cultured professor descending into perverseness and jealousy over jailbait Lolita (Sue Lyons). Lyons is pretty good for such a young actress who flirts a lot and can be quite bratty, but her crazy/lonely/man hungry mother Charlotte (Shelley Winters) really steals a bunch of scenes in the first part of the film just being off her rocker. Lots of people talk about Peter Sellers and how great he is, and all I can say is that he is on another planet while acting in this film. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but I'll always think about ping-pong a little differently now, that's for sure. Watching him dance at the beginning is mesmerizing if only because you are not really sure what the fuck is up with him. What his game is all about? Art films? Judo? Just to knock Humbert off his high perch? Why does he do any of it? Quilty is really one of the most frustratingly amazing characters ever put to screen, and Sellers performance equals that.
Kubrick said afterward that had he known the severe limitations he would have in making the film because of censorship, he probably would never had agreed to make it. For my part, I'm glad he did, because it forced him to be far more creative in deciding exactly what to shoot and how he was going to shoot it. Lots of people have this near the bottom of their Kubrick lists, and I'm not sure why. This is a great film, mostly for it's characters, none of which have any real moral compass.