Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Director Week: Stanley Kubrick- Lolita

Welcome back to Day 2 of Director Week starring Stanley Kubrick. This time around I felt the need to hit a prolific film based on a novel that unnerved some and disgusted others. With the countless censorship around the film, time lag and multiple issues with the movie, Kubrick claimed he would never have made it. This is Lolita.

Well... good morning indeed.

The MPAA restrictions at the time made the film have to tone down the more erotic and provocative elements of the novel. It had to be created to fit the audience's imagination. What happens with a middle-aged man becomes ensorcelled with a teenage girl. Professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason of A Star Is Born, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, North by Northwest, Lolita and Salem's Lot) is a 40 something professor of French literature stays in New Hampshire for the summer until term comes around in Beardsley College in Ohio.

He proceeds to find a room to rent and encounters Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters of A Place in the Sun, The Night of the Hunter, Alfie, Gideon and La bomba) a widow that hasn't had the company of a man in some time, slightly clingy and a tad on the obnoxious steering Humbert to leave when he spies her daughter Dolores, lovingly called Lolita (Sue Lyon of The Night of the Iguana, 7 Women, The Flim-Flam Man, Tony Rome, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Magician and End of the World) and is smitten by the young lady. To be that much closer to Lolita, Humbert becomes a lodger at the house and attempts to fend off Charlotte's obvious advances when Lolita must go to a sleepaway camp (Beware of Angela!!) for the summer. The maid gave Humbert a letter from Charlotte confessing her undying love for him and if he remains in the house that clearly they are meant to be. Without the balance of Lolita, Humbert gets sour as Charlotte becomes very whiny and the days and nights seem to drag on. It is only when she is tidying that Charlotte comes across Humbert's diary outlining his obsession for Lolita and constantly refers Charlotte as that annoying Haze woman, the cow and brainless baba. Disgusted and furious she runs out of the house and is run over by a car and killed.

Not really getting through that book, is he?

Humbert picks Lolita up from the summer camp and the two proceed to travel the states... getting closer all the while. During the day and in public, they act as father and daughter eventually move in together and all appears on the up and up when the town is whispering about Humbert's overprotective tendencies towards Lolita. Soon this pushy stranger calling himself Dr. Zempf informs Humbert that his "daughter" could be experiencing life in the theatre allowing her to express herself better in the play as lead role. Things turn for the worse when Humbert finds Lolita has been lying to him on how she spends her Saturdays. Can this all end in tears? What would his colleagues think of him?

A few facts on the film now. Kubrick was never fully allowed to stress the erotic content to the relationship of Lolita and Humbert as the brilliant writer Vladimir Nabokov did rather than having to be indirect with double entendres and a few visual cues like her being in his lap or Humbert painting her toes with polish. Kubrick deliberately obscures Lolita's age to add an extra element of discomfort that it was rated X by the British Board of Film Censors in 1962 and no one under the age of 16 could watch it. The wonderful Peter Sellers (Up the Creek, Never Let Go, Trial and Error, The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, A Shot in the Dark and What's New Pussycat) has a vital role in the movie and I immediately recognized Lois Maxwell (Money Penny of the James Bond films) as the nurse and wondered, "Hey, how come my nurses are never that lovely?"

Iconic film cover shot.