Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002369, Tue, 23 Sep 1997 10:26:25 -0700

Lyne-Schiff LOLITA (fwd)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
"Snubbed by Hollywood, a new 'Lolita' Stalls in Europe" (NYT)
by Celestine Bohlen

Americans read "Lolita," the book, in the 1950s, and saw "Lolita," the
movie, in the 1960s. Now, decades after it first became a test of both
artistic license and freedom, "Lolita," the film remake, is about to open
across Europe but not in the United States, where major distributors have
so far stunned Vladimir Nabokov's disturbing story...

Both Mr. Lyne and Mr. Irons... talked ominously, indignantly and at length
about their concerns that this version of Lolita -- unlike the novel and
earlier film -- is being given a silent burial on the other side of the
Atlantic [i.e. US], a victim of the timid tyranny of "political

In Hollywood, several executives, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
the movie would have been picked up for distribution if it had been a
better movie. It was long and undisciplined, one top executive said,
adding, "We didn't see an audience for this at all." Another executive
said that the American distribution rights would have cost at least $30
million, and added simply, "It was not a good movie."

Nonetheless, at a new conference [in Spain] packed with journalists asking
about the "censorship of the film in the US. Mr. Lyne insisted that
Hollywood was frightened by the subject matter. "It is a country where
6-year-olds are sent home for kissing their classmates..."

[The history of Lolita publication and the earlier film version follows.]

But in the last few years, sexual abuse of children has become a matter
of grave social concern, the most alarming crime of the fin de siecle...


"Usually, it is better if [a movie] opens in the US first," said
Margherita Padranzini, communications director for Medusa, the Italian
distributor. "But we believe in this movie, and we decided to open in
September, which happens to make us the first... We are not so prejudiced:
we have to see the movie first, and 'Lolita,' after all, is a classic."

In fact, Dmitri Nabokov, the writer's son, is expected to attend the Rome
premiere as a reminder of the movie's literary origins and an endorsement
of its faithfulness to the novel.

[More complaints by Lyne and Irons about Hollywood follow; it is also
pointed out that despite Lyne's reputation for "sexual brashness" in his
other movies, "Lolita" has very few sex scenes.]

Now two hours and 17 minutes long, the film was criticized by most critics
there as being too long. And all found its final scene, in which Humbert
murders his nemesis, Clare Quilty, so absurdly grotesque and violent that
it caused ripples of laughter at a press screening here on Friday night.

Early reviews in the European press this week were mixed. Derek Malcolm, a
well-known British critic, said: "he gets nearer to what the book was
about. Even if you think it fails, you can's say it is third-rate. It is
an honorable effort and at times, even successful."

The mainstream Spanish press, however, panned the film as a "mediocre"
effort by a director, known for his shallow "yuppie" movies, to follow in
the footsteps of Nabokov and Kubrick. "With Lolita, he has made his best
film," wrote Carlos Boyero in El Mundo. "It is not a good film. Neither is
it bad. It is nothing."

[end of the article].

Galya Diment