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Lolita Blu-ray



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#1 of 5 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 26 2011 - 06:46 PM

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Lolita
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
Year: 1962
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2:33:31
MSRP: $19.98

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 1.66:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 1.0 / Dolby Digital: French 1.0, German 1.0, Italian 1.0, Castellano 1.0, Spanish 1.0, Portuguese 1.0 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Swedish None


The Feature: 4/5

Professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason) needs to rent a room for the summer. Something quiet, clean, and affordable. The one being offered by the widowed Mrs. Haze (Shelley Winters) is alright, but Humbert finds the woman insufferable - a loud, pretentious creature with designs on him. Her teenage daughter Lolita (Sue Lyon), however, moves and beguiles him. To spend the summer with this "nymphet," Humbert is willing to tolerate the mother; as he gets closer to the daughter, he will eventually give up even more than that, marrying "the Haze woman" in order to remain with his true love. But he can only keep up the charade for so long, and though his wish to be with Lolita exclusively eventually comes true, guilt over what he knows to be wrong and paranoia about losing her to someone else will ultimately upend the deluded fantasy he's been living.

Publicity for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's most famous - and controversial - novel asked the question that was on everyone's minds - "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" The answer? By playing up the book's dark humor and ironic tone that were ultimately lost on many a reader, myself included. Looking at the story through those filters changes it from being "erotic" - which would have been fine except the tale concerns a middle-aged man messing around with a pubescent girl - to something absurd, which Kubrick's adaptation gets down pat. Though the treatment plays out like a severe departure from the source material, it's ultimately more true to its underlying spirit, unlike Adrian Lyne's 1997 version, which follows everything on the surface, but ignores what makes the novel more than a titillating page turner - that is, the author's true intentions.

Admittedly, I did like Lyne's much-too-literal take on things, being kind of a sucker for tragedies, but Kubrick's version is obviously the more accurate of the two interpretations. In it Mason plays the role of Humbert as a sort of a straight man to the ridiculousness of his own life and Winters, with movies like "Night of the Hunter" and "A Place In the Sun" already under her belt, continues to portray the very meaning of pathetic and desperate. The increased role of Humbert's nemesis is an interesting concept, presenting him more clearly as the man Humbert is deep down, but it stretches the believability of the story for him to be present so obviously, so often. The casting of Lyon as the title character seems similarly problematic - though I suspect her "gee whiz" portrayal is not her performance per se, but an artifact of the era's teen culture.

Despite Kubrick's version being conceptually superior, I'm actually glad both adaptations exist. It's always fascinating to see how different filmmakers approach the same material and, in the case of "Lolita," either embrace or ignore the work's polarities. Together the two films provide a demonstration of how one work can be interpreted in different ways, but - more importantly - they show we should never just accept art at face value.

Video Quality: 4.5/5

The film is accurately framed at 1.66:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. The transfer features strong, stable black levels, excellent contrast and outstanding detail, though that can be more apparent in close ups than wide shots. There are a few moments of noticeable softness - outside of some obvious soft focus "beauty shot" filtering - but they are likely inherent to the source given the consistency of overall picture sharpness. The picture also contains no artifacts from excessive digital processing.


Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear, intelligible, and detailed. The track also exhibits fine depth and fullness and has a surprisingly wide sound stage.


Special Features: 1/5


Theatrical Trailer (1:00, SD)


Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 1/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5


Warner Home Video turns in a fine presentation of Stanley Kubrick's true-to-the-spirit adaptation of Nabokov's controversial novel. The sole extra is the theatrical trailer in standard definition. As with "Barry Lyndon," the title is currently an Amazon exclusive, but is included in the "Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Collection" Blu-ray boxed set, also coming out on May 31, 2011. This collection of nine Kubrick films is available through other retailers, in addition to Amazon.


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#2 of 5 Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 26 2011 - 07:56 PM

Great review, Cameron!


I'm glad you mentioned the newer version of Lolita - I love both films (although the Kubrick version is the better one in my opinion as well).  This film is near to my heart, as one of my high school honors thesis papers was a comparison of the novel, the two films, and how what was socially acceptable in film in the times both adaptations were made shaped the final result.  (Edward Albee's play was also mentioned just for the sake of completion.)  Kubrick captured all of the black comedy in the novel, white he was limited with what parts of the tragedy he was able to show, while Lyne got the tragedy down but missed the humor.


One of my favorite things about the book - which I think is actually most responsible for how it can be misread - is that Humbert is an unreliable narrator.  For instance, in the book there's a scene where he hosts a dinner part, and there's a line in there that's something to the effect of "And then I entertained the crowd with hilarious story after story" (not a direct quote).  The trick in reading the book is decoding, was the story hilarious, or was it hilarious only in Humbert's mind?  Did his dinner party guests enjoy his company or did he miss the awkwardness that was present in the room?  Kubrick picked up on those things far better than Lyne.  And although the screenplay is credited to Nabokov, it was mostly Kubrick's; the original Nabokov screenplay has been published and bears little resemblance to the final film, as I recall.


Although Kubrick wasn't allowed to show the more explicit parts of the book, he managed to be wonderfully subversive and witty in his take on it.  One of my favorite sight gags comes when Humbert goes to pick up Lolita from summer camp; the signpost tells us that the name of the camp is "Camp Climax".



#3 of 5 WinstonCely

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Posted May 27 2011 - 12:31 AM

The "limp and a noodle" line is one of my favorites.


Charlotte Haze: Hum, you just touch me and I... I... I go as limp as a noodle. It scares me. Humbert Humbert: Yes, I know the feeling.


#4 of 5 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 27 2011 - 01:36 AM

Yes, Camp Climax - for Girls! (Drive carefully) When Charlotte Haze first mentions it I had to go back to make sure that is what she actually said. Kubrick's films seem to use the unreliable narrator regularly, at least the batch coming out Tuesday. Even in Barry Lyndon you're not quite confident in the voice over guy.
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#5 of 5 Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 27 2011 - 02:52 AM



Originally Posted by DellaStMedia 

The "limp and a noodle" line is one of my favorites.


Charlotte Haze: Hum, you just touch me and I... I... I go as limp as a noodle. It scares me. Humbert Humbert: Yes, I know the feeling.


I don't know how I forgot to mention that - it kills me every time.  Brilliant!  I really need to watch this again.