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LOLITA

SYNOPSIS:
Professor of French, Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons), an intelligent and urbane Englishman, arrives in the New England home of the welcoming widow, Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffiths). She sees him as her dream man, dripping with European culture. But Humbert’s heart and soul are taken the instant he sees 14 year old Dolores Haze, the daughter. She seems the reincarnation of the Annabel he lost when they were both 13, causing in him an emotional ice age ever since. While Charlotte courts Humbert, Humbert finds himself delicately and comically courting Dolores (Dominique Swain) – who is not altogether ignorant of the power she seems to have over him. When fate arranges to throw them together, the illicit couple embark on a journey by car that is also a trail to hell.

"The poignant dissonance of a forsaken musical note pierces the soul in the opening scenes of Lolita, a richly layered, expressive and exquisite cinematic work. Visually breathtaking, Adrian Lyne's unhurried storytelling is the epitome of poetic, romantic tragedy. Lolita is not about a dirty old man preying on a young, underage girl. It's the story of a middle aged man, smitten, not only by the beauty and vibrancy of youth, but by a long lost young love from which he has never recovered. His joy is always haunted by the voice of conscience. It's also the story of a nymphette – a young, sensuous girl on the threshhold of womanhood, who is at first unaware of her sexual allure and of the provocation she emits. In her bereavement of innocence lost, she realises the power sex offers her, making full use of every asset she has, intentionally and manipulatively. There is profound tragedy in both of these personal tales. Jeremy Irons, the thinking woman's sex symbol, is dazzling as Humbert. His gut-wrenching performance is so complex, detailed and overtly vulnerable; the folly of succumbing to temptation and mental anguish he endures throughout is effecting to the extreme. Dominique Swain is extraordinary as the young temptress – here is a mature performance, elaborate in its implications, strident by its honesty. Lyne's direction explores every angle in an almost claustrophobic way, engulfing us in every heartbeat, every breath of anticipation. The beauty of youth is captured; the vibrancy, the unpredictability, the irrationality. With its wistful undercurrent of melancholy, Lolita is an unforgettable rollercoaster ride on the highway of emotions, an insightful glimpse into a tortured soul."
Louise Keller

"Although James Mason and Susan Lyon are dim in my memory, a couple of scenes from that first adaptation of Nabokov’s novel (dir. Stanley Kubrick) have remained with me, including the final sequence. There also has remained from that film a residue of the relationship, something vaguely disreputable. But there is none of the depth of passion and darkness, none of the complexity of Lolita’s character, none of the agonised and agonising emotional journey by Humbert that Adrian Lyne’s fine film generates - all of which will stay with me for the next 20 years or more. Jeremy Irons is a magnificent choice for Lyne’s vision of the torn, tormented professor hopelessly addicted to the love Lolita lets loose in his soul. The love of youth itself, really. The consensual development of the affair and the tragic backstory outlined by Humbert in his voice-over (and what better for a voice-over than Irons’ rich, baroque English) create a complex terrain on which the love tragedy unfolds. Dominique Swain gives us a Lolita with recognisably volatile teenage tendencies, unintentional (and intentional) casual cruelty and joie de vivre all rolled into one sexually charged female. The Humbert role is redrawn here with a much darker, self analytical characterisation, and the result is to throw into sharp contrast the difference between Humbert’s feelings, and that other phenomenon that is exercising our attention: peadophilia. Anyone who is dumb enough to speak against this film without first seeing it should be sent to coventry and made to write (in longhand) a thousand times: ‘I shall not talk about films and their morality until I have seen them.’ Neither Nabokov nor Lyne seem interested in a discussion about paedophilia. They are both concerned with a story of tragic proportions that emerges out of an insatiable love – and like most love stories, we risk being foolish if we try to analyse it too much. Lyne’s Lolita is riveting cinema, daring yet compassionate, faultlessly made and performed, achingly passionate and helplessly melancholy… the currency we trade in for much of our lives."
Andrew L. Urban

"Forget the preconceptions that this film brings with it, the political and moral arguments put forward: the bottom line is, Lolita is an extremely good film, and that should be one's concern. Of course it in no way puts a positive spin on paedophilia, and anyone who thinks so, has no real understanding of the book or the characters. The fact is, Lolita is a stunningly realised drama, a beautifully evocative tragedy about a seriously flawed intellectual and his relationship with a young girl. Humbert is a man who we may well despise, but who is also a character to be pitied. This is the story of a dangerously obsessive relationship, but one doomed to failure. It also represents the best work done by Irons in years. It's a tough role, and the actor equips himself with an emotional resonance we haven't seen from him since Reversal of Fortune. As for his untrained co-star Dominique Swain, she's a revelation indeed, delivering a brave and uncompromising performance. Adrian Lyne's direction is consistently fluid and meticulous, beautifully shot and tautly structured. The final film is a powerful and vivid work, one that takes risks that ultimately pay off. Forget the politics and appreciate the true artistry of this Lolita."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

See Andrew L. Urban's interviews with JEREMY IRONS and ADRIAN LYNE

and Louise Keller's interview with DOMINIQUE SWAIN

Andrew L. Urban RESPONDS
to calls for the banning of the film and does a reality check on some of the charges against the film.

LOLITA (R)
(US/French)

CAST: Dominique Swain, Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, Frank Langella, Suzanne Shepherd, Keith Reddin, Erin J. Dean

DIRECTOR: Adrian Lyne

PRODUCER: Mario Kassar, Joel B. Michaels

SCRIPT: Stephen Schiff (based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Howard Atherton

EDITOR: Julie Monroe, David Bremner (additional editing by F. Paul Benz)

MUSIC: Ennio Morricone

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Hutman

RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Beyond Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 8, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: August 25, 1999

VIDEO RETAIL RELEASE: April 20, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment







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