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the Complete Review
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Richard Corliss

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To purchase Lolita

Title: Lolita
Author: Richard Corliss
Genre: Film
Written: 1994
Length: 88 pages
Availability: Lolita - US
Lolita - UK
Lolita - Canada
Video: Lolita - Kubrick version
Lolita - Lyne version
  • A BFI Film Classics study of Stanley Kubrick's 1961 film, based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov.
  • The book was published without an index. The index is available from Film Comment magazine -- send SASE.

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Our Assessment:

A- : short, creative study of Nabokov's book and Kubrick's film

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Film Comment A+ 5/1995 David Thomson
The Guardian . 8/1/1995 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Nominally dutiful praise of Stanley Kubrick's Lolita is presented as a 99-line poem, "Pale Film", followed by scrupulous, exhaustive and, I'm happy to say, often dotty line notes. It's almost enough to redeem Kubrick's movie. (...) If only Kubrick's film actually had the sensuousness, the heart-arresting apprehension that Corliss can make us feel in his writing." - David Thomson, Film Comment

  • "Corliss, film critic of Time, ingeniously examines Lolita in the form of a pastiche of Nabokov's Pale Fire, a poem called Pale Film, and a commentary on it." - The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The marvelous BFI Film Classics series (and its Modern Classics counterpart) has already produced an interesting variety of approaches to film criticism and commentary. Richard Corliss' study of Stanley Kubrick's 1961 film, Lolita, is among the more creative takes.
       Corliss reports having to trim his original work to fit within the constraints of the small volumes (limited to ca. 30,000 words); disappointingly space limitations also saw the index being eviscerated (Corliss kindly offers to provide one via Film Comment magazine -- send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your request). Credits, bibliography, and a fill of film-stills fortunately found space in the thin volume -- and Corliss' writing, though trimmed, is still an excellent commentary on the film, novel, and phenomenon that is Lolita.
       Corliss begins with a 99-line poem, Pale Film, a commentary in verse on Kubrick's film (and homage to Nabokov's 999-line poem plus commentary that is his masterpiece, Pale Fire). While not quite Nabokovian in quality, Corliss' poem serves his purpose well, allowing him, in his commentary, to address almost all aspects of Lolita's various incarnations. (Written in 1994, Corliss does not address Adrian Lyne's later adaptation here, but he has written about it, in an article in Film Comment.)
       Corliss pays special attention to Nabokov, whom he clearly venerates, pointing out how different Kubrick's version is even from Nabokov's published screenplay (see our review). His analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the parties involved (Kubrick, Nabokov, James Mason, Peter Sellers, Shelley Winters, and Sue Lyon) is perceptive, as is his retelling of the difficulties of making the film and the resulting necessary compromises.
       There is information about all aspects of the film and those involved in bringing it to the screen, as well as Corliss' insightful criticism. A knowledgeable film critic, he is particularly good in discussing the actors -- Mason, Winters, and, of course, Lyon. A Nabokov fan, he also pays proper homage to the grand master. And Corliss knows how to write and present his material -- though perhaps too tightly pared down, the book reads very well.
       An essential text for all those interested in Nabokov's nymphet.

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Lolita: The Lolita Movies:
  • IMDb site on Kubrick's version.
  • IMDb site on Lyne's version.
Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita under review at the complete review: Other books by Vladimir Nabokov under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Richard Corliss writes for Time magazine.

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