8:00 PM, 15th October, 2003
The tagline used by MGM back in 1962 was: "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" Some of the sourer critics replied: "They didn't." An obvious point of difference is Lolita's age: she's 12 when she first appears in the book, but played in the film by an actress (Sue Lyon) just shy of 16, and looking a year or two older. Middle-aged Humbert Humbert (Mason) falls in love not with a child but with an attractive teenager; someone too young for him, but not too young, period.
Whatever Lolita's age, Humbert's crime is not that he lusts after her (which is not his fault), nor even that he acts on this lust; his sexual perversion, scarcely even mentioned in the film, isn't nearly so bad as his tyranny. Kubrick's film is daring, certainly more daring than the 1997 remake, in doing what Nabokov's book does: allowing us to be charmed by a man who repels us at the same time.
It's more than just disturbing; like the book, the film has as much suspense and comedy as creepiness (Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty is perfect casting), and Nabokov's favourite scene (not to be found in the book) was the one in which Quilty and Humbert play an impromptu game of 'Roman ping pong'