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 narrative.

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 second-rateness.

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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