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Lolita

Great Britain 1962. Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers, Marianne Stone

A series of dubious motels and hotels are pit-stops in the scandalous road trip embarked on by titular Lolita (Sue Lyon), the underage American “nymphet,” and lascivious Humbert Humbert (James Mason), the infatuated Euro academic who is her kidnapper/stepfather/suitor, in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel. Kubrick, as demonstrated again in 1980’s The Shining, knew a thing or two about using hotels as cinematic space; he also knew a thing or two about comedy — dark, satirical comedy — as he reveals here for the very first time (and again in Dr. Strangelove, his follow-up). Made from a double-entendre-filled (and Oscar-nominated) script by Nabokov himself, Kubrick’s road movie/comedy of manners/Old World-meets-New World satire/tale of erotic obsession also features quicksilver Peter Sellers (inspired!) as mad playwright Clare Quilty, and Shelly Winter as culture-vulture Charlotte Haze, Lolita’s mom. The film sought to avert some of the novel’s controversy by upping Lolita’s age from 12 to 14ish! “Wild, marvellously enjoyable comedy ... It's the first new American comedy since those great days in the forties when Preston Sturges recreated comedy with verbal slapstick. Lolita is black slapstick and at times it's so far out that you gasp as you laugh” (Pauline Kael). “A first-rate film with magnificent actors ... Kubrick was a great director” (Nabokov). B&W, 35mm. 153 mins.