Lolita

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“How did they ever make a movie of ‘Lolita?'” was the clever question used to promote Stanley Kubrick’s controversial, darkly humorous adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s enduringly scandalous classic. The answer to that provocative question was: “very, very carefully.” Kubrick’s distinct take on Nabakov’s highly unusual tale of a doomed romance between a middle-aged intellectual and a 12-year-old nymphet included an Oscar-nominated screenplay by the novelist himself (though it bears little resemblance to the film Kubrick ultimately made), and (in an effort to circumvent the censors) the tweaking of Lolita’s age from 12 to 14. The precocious Sue Lyon memorably brings Lolita to life (who can forget the nymphet’s cinematic introduction, decked out in bathing suit, wide-brimmed sunhat and cat-eye sunglasses, with Nelson Riddle’s slinky “Lolita Ya Ya” theme wafting through the background?), aided by expert performances from Shelley Winters as Lolita’s comically deluded mother Charlotte and the ever-urbane James Mason as stolid professor Humbert Humbert, whose mild manner and charming erudition mask a peculiar and unruly passion for our young heroine. Kubrick favorite Peter Sellers also adds his special brand of off-kilter strangeness as Humbert’s romantic rival Clare Quilty, a bizarre, disguise-loving writer plotting his own unusual agenda for the teen temptress. (Dir. by Stanley Kubrick, 1962, USA, 152 mins., Not Rated) Digital