Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003199, Thu, 16 Jul 1998 19:40:31 -0700

Schiff/Lyne LOLITA in the Denver Post (fwd)
The following article appears in the Living & Fashion section of today's
Denver Post (available online at www.denverpost.com/movie/eicher0716.htm).
The story adjacent to it, appropriately enough, examines the popularity of
butterfly print apparel.

Darrin English

Everybody has opinion on 'Lolita'

By Diane Eicher
Denver Post Radio/TV Writer

July 16 - PASADENA, Calif.- The most talked-about TV project of the
year got talked about some more out here. And it's clear that people are
never going to agree on "Lolita'' - from whether it's suitable for
even a pay cable channel, to what it's even about.

The film is adapted from Vladimir Nabokov's classic 1954 novel about a
middle-aged, troubled college professor, Humbert Humbert, who is
obsessed with 12-year-old Lolita, the daughter of his landlady. The story
has both captured and offended people ever since. Four and a half decades
ago, American publishers were loath to pick it up after it came out in
Stanley Kubrick eventually turned it into a movie for MGM in 1962.

The new "Lolita'' will air first Aug. 2 on Showtime, but it was a long time
getting there. The remake had its start more than seven years ago, when
director Adrian Lyne ("Fatal Attraction,'' "Flashdance,'' "Indecent
Proposal'') went through production firms and screenplay writers
at warp speed. While the nature of the material - older man loving
pubescent girl - was responsible for some of that, because people were
wary of taking a chance on it, financial difficulties also figured in.

Once it was made, Lyne couldn't find a U.S. distributor for some two years.
Showtime finally picked it up, and then just last week, Samuel Goldwyn
Films announced it will release it in theaters in late September or early

Here, the debate ranged from whether "Lolita'' cost too much ($58 million,
the most ever spent on a film to premiere on pay TV), whether it's a film
about sex or obsession or love, up to the more predictable issue of whether
this is pornography masquerading as good TV. Oddly, one critic even
argued that it didn't have enough sex (although he was roundly derided).

What likely will surprise viewers who can get through their preconceptions
that there is not much sex per se on the screen in this version of
With the exception of some final scenes showing a nude Claire Quilty, the
older male character who steals Lolita away from Humbert, you can see as
much skin during a daytime soap or a nighttime "NYPD.''

There is implied sex, however, and eroticism, and subject material that will
make people cringe.

That, however, is also considered part of the strength, of both the novel
the new film. "If this film didn't from time to time make an audience
uncomfortable, we weren't doing our job,'' said screenplay author Stephen

Director Lyne said he thinks the '90s have made the subject material even
more off-limits, and that 20 years ago, this film would have been released
without problem."The climate has changed enormously. . . . I think that it's
only in the last five or six years that we have started to read about
pedophilia,'' said Lyne.

And we have our own local news story to thank for part of that: Lyne, as
well as Schiff, mentioned the JonBenet Ramsey case as evidence of the
country's increased awareness of pedophilia. The hundreds of clips we've
seen of JonBenet dressed up to look much older also tie in to another part
of the novel: girls coming of age before their time.

Newcomer Dominique Swain, who was just 14 when she started playing the
Lolita role, was on a panel here, and although she does a very credible,
almost entrancing job of playing the girl/woman in the film, she could
get out a complete sentence in front of a room full of critics. That may
been shyness, but she did say she wasn't uncomfortable playing the role (her
mom and tutor were on the set), and that there was a "pad'' between her
and Jeremy Irons whenever there was contact.

Irons, however, said it was a very difficult role to act, "in that I was
supposed to be obsessed by somebody who, of course, I couldn't be
obsessed about. That was difficult, but of course useful because Humbert
was aware that what he was doing was damaging . . . wrong. And so I was
able to use that difficulty.''

Irons said he views "Lolita'' as both love story and tragedy, and although
was wary of playing another "oddball'' character in his career and initially
turned the role down, he eventually agreed because he believes that one of
the functions of the arts "is to stir up debate.''

Look for that debate to ignite again early next month when "Lolita'' airs.
Although certainly, anyone who's offended need only find their remote to
relieve their discomfort.