Newcity Chicago

DIRECTED BY: Stanley Kubrick

REVIEWED: 11-23-98

Having once actually been a young girl who felt that grown men were attracted to her--not as a harbinger of womanhood, but as I was--I was reticent about watching "Lolita." I knew it would capture all the tingly, ego-drenching exuberance of finally sensing a power over men that was something more than just girlish charm. After all, we the thoughtful, targeted audience are savvy (or jaded) enough to be okay with the concept of sexual girls. All that was the easy, artful part for "9 1/2 Weeks" director Adrian Lyne, who slicks the dizzying first half of the film in sunshine and saliva, and who, from the faucets to the flinches, demonstrates his fetishist's eye for detail. But how well would "Lolita" be able to mingle that radiance with its terrifying accompaniment: the slightly sick feeling of not being sure that you want what you're clearly "asking for." The creeping awareness that men are allured by teasing but aren't quite satisfied by it, and that playing with the big boys entails something that flirtatious, 14-year-old bodies don't seem cut out for--in a word, penetration? Lyne--and actress Dominique Swain--come through. From all the buoyant grins to the numerous double entendres, most everything can be construed as both sexy and just awful, with a few burts of eroticism or utter misery to break up the tension. It's never been hard to relate to a grown man's obsession with a lithe girl, but, surprisingly, it's just as easy here to taste the nausea of a young person who feels complicit in her own seduction. The tension of this duality carries over to the sex scenes, where I felt both my hand on Lolita's knee and Humbert beneath me. That's quite a rarity, as most sex scenes--trained as they are on the face of a moaning female object of desire--force me to play the transvestite and align myself with the man--the subject of the story. I'd be curious to hear if male viewers will also be able to relate as easily to Lolita as they do to Humbert: If they can look between, not past, those innumerable shots of Lolita's flexible, breakable legs to what all that fetishism hints at: the virgin, red tightness they hide and then--no, not even that, but the tearing, the stretching, the bleeding.

--Ellen Fox

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Other Films by Stanley Kubrick
A Clockwork Orange
Dr. Strangelove
Eyes Wide Shut
Paths of Glory
The Killing
The Shining

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