NABOKV-L post 0020761, Fri, 24 Sep 2010 18:19:23 -0500

Re: film review of Despair containing phrase
don't know if this helps. d schade

Despair (1978)
Screen: Nabokov's 'Despair':A Cousin of Lolita

Published: February 16, 1979

IN the 1965 preface to his revised edition of "Despair," his novel
first published in 1936. Vladimir Nabokov described the original
Russian title, "Otchayanie," as being "a far more sonorous howl" than
the English word he had chosen. But "Despair" will do for both the
novel and for Rainer Werner Fassbinder's elegant, comic, purposely
precious film version, adapted by the playwright Tom Stoppard, who has
been inspired by Nabokov to attain new heights of splendid lunacy, and
acted by Dirk Bogarde, who gives one of the wittiest performances of
his entire career. The film opens today at the Gemini II.

Though Nabokov wrote "Despair" almost 20 years before "Lolita," the
two novels share something more than the author's very original
sensibility, "Despair's" Hermann Karlovich is Lolita's indefatigable
suitor, Humbert Humbert, somewhat younger, perhaps, and a tiny bit
less polished, but equally blind and self-defeating in his obsessions.
Like Humbert (and Nabokov), Hermann (Mr. Bogarde) is a Russian emigre,
this time in Berlin in 1930. Hermann, who owns a small chocolate
factory where everything is painted a soft lilac hue, from the
delivery trucks to the gift boxes, is disassociated not only from the
land where he grew up, but also from his wife, his business associates
and, finally, from himself.

When Hermann makes love to Lydia (Andrea Ferreol), his plump, pretty
wife who has a fondness for baby talk ("intelligence" says Hermann,
"would take the bloom off your carnality"), he mentally separates
himself from the scene, sitting in the living room of their flat while
he watches and stage-manages their play in the bedroom.

Hermann is truly impossible — dandified, sarcastic and dishonest even
about the details of his background. But, as he says at one point,
"All the information I have about myself is from forged documents."
With that acute sensitivity that often heralds approaching illness,
Hermann responds to all of the world's vulgarities as if they were a
kind of physical torture. An eyebrow twitches involuntarily when Lydia
makes one of her egg-and-mild toddies, which she calls "moggy-
woggies." He flinches as if threatened with a crowbar when Ardalion
(Volker Spengler). Lydia's cousin and sometimes lover, a fat slob of
an artist, appears before him dressed in nothing but a towel, his
belly hanging over the top.

But Hermann does love Lydia for all her sillinesses, probably because
she loves him and finds him ever fascinating. "How dare you come into
the room partly clothed," he yells at Lydia when she enters their
bedroom dressed only in a black slip. "Off with it!"

They do have fun, but they need money. It's to mend this need that
Hermann devises a crazy insurance swindle, a scheme that is based on
his use of a drifter named Felix (Klaus Lowitsch), who, Hermann is
convinced, is his physical double, but who, as all the rest of us can
see, bears little, if, any resemblance to him. Only a man so
recklessly possessed could make such a mistake.

Like the novel on which it is based, the film loses momentum as the
machinery of the plot must be tended to near the end, but it's at this
point one can fully appreciate the contributions by Mr. Fassbinder,
Mr. Stoppard and Mr. Bogarde.

Unlike some of his European colleagues who've not been able to make
the transition to English-language films (I think especially of Alain
Resnais and the late Luchino Visconti), Mr. Fassbinder succeeds
brilliantly, with the great help, of course, of Mr. Stoppard. The
baroque movements of the camera — it never sits if it can stand, and
never stands if it can swoop and soar — produce a visual equivalent to
the comic fussiness of the prose style of Nabokov's first-person

Mr. Bogarde's prissy gestures, mixed with expressions of alarm and
lust that are always conscious, as they are with someone a little
beside himself, beautifully illuminate this seminal Nabokovian hero.
Miss Ferreol is dainty, bovine, vulgar and always sweet, and Mr.
Spengler, a red-haired German actor, is a mountain of unredeemable

The Stoppard script is a joy for anyone who likes the English
language. There are very few puns here. Instead, he has miraculously
turned Nabokov's exposition into spoken dialogue that matches the tone
of the original. "A line has length but no breadth," says Hermann. "If
you could see it, it wouldn't be a line." That's pure Stoppard,
inspired by Nabokov, and the result is perfectly seamless.

A Cousin of Lolita

DESPAIR, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; screenplay by Tom
Stoppard; director of photography, Michael Balihous; edited by
Reginaid Beck; produced by Peter Marthesheimer; released by New Line
Cinema. At the Gemini 2 Theater, 64th Street and Second Avenue.
Running time: 119 minutes. This film has not been rated.
Hermann . . . . . Dirk Bogarde
Lydia . . . . . Andrea Ferreol
Ardalion . . . . . Volker Spengler
Felix . . . . . Klaus Lowitsch
Mayer . . . . . Alexander Allerson
Orlovius . . . . . Bernhard Wicki
Muller . . . . . Peter Kern
Perebrodov . . . . . Gottfried John
Inspektor Braun . . . . . Roger Fritz
Doktor . . . . . Hark Bonm
Madame . . . . . Voli Geiler
Muller's Brother . . . . . Hans Zander
Elsie . . . . . Y Sa Lo
Secretary . . . . . Liselotte Eder
1st and 2d Twin and Foreman . . . . . Armin Mayer
Woman in Pension . . . . . Gitti Djamal

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