31 Days of Oscar: “Lolita (1962)”

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With classic films it’s never too predictable on whether or not you’ll like the film. You may have high hopes and an open mind, but sometimes none of that will matter. The film, for many reasons, one probably being time, just can’t do whatever it once did. Of course, like with all films, be they classics or contemporary films, there could be other factors affecting the way you ultimately respond to the finished product. Such is the case here, and it really, more so than other instances, serves as a great lesson I’ll probably end up ignoring.

The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film “Lolita”, based on the novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov, is certainly one classic film I regret watching. Yes, it may have taken me ages to finally get to it, but not for a lack of trying, and now I’m wishing I’d skipped it or somehow been unable to watch it altogether. I’m that disappointed in it. However, that being said, this classic wouldn’t be the first film to disappoint me the first time out. Because I was so dismayed the first time, which I detailed in bullet points, I was hoping my second go around with “2001: A Space Odyssey” would be better. I don’t think it was as I now have a love/hate relationship with it. More hate than anything, I’m sure. But I’m always willing, if I can, to give it another shot and see if somehow something changes for me. I fear that this film, ironically, also directed by Stanley Kubrick, will ultimately go the way of his other well known film. I’m now seriously dreading watching “A Clockwork Orange”.

Molasses Is More Eventful

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The film’s main problem, which for me was exacerbated (possibly) by me and my decision making, is the length and pacing. It’s too long, slow and ultimately boring. The events never interested me, even when I was paying more attention during the first 45 minutes to an hour. I’m not sure how I managed to get through even that, but I did. Eventually, I couldn’t focus. Boredom had pretty much overcome me. However, it wasn’t just because the events were so dull. I brought with me something I try not to include in any kind of viewing experience.

I was tired. Not dead tired or even overly tired, but tired. Somehow I didn’t sleep that well the night before, but due to my personal schedule, which speaks more to my own need to accomplish things and stick to what’s planned as well as competition, I forced myself to watch it. I had a feeling this was going to be a bad idea, but I’d also managed to get myself excited about watching this film. Again, prior to this viewing, I’d been trying to see it on other occasions with no luck. Now that I could, how could I pass it up even a day longer? And so, I think somehow this tiredness affected me. Now, I sadly can’t say how much because I’m pretty certain this film had it’s own strikes against it.

One instance of this, is when I found myself lost in the events of the film. Being bored with what’s going on makes it that much easier to not fully pay attention and get lost easily. It’s funny too, that because of the tiredness, which had already shown itself when I had to rewind a small bit as I thought I’d missed a large amount of time and story, but it turns out it was really only a few minutes where silence pretty much ruled. And so, I decided to do what I dislike doing. I busied myself with something else. My phone. At least I was awake. And even with this next best thing, I still got lost. Eventually the characters are talking about needing to flee to Mexico, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea as to why. Did they commit a crime? If it was explained again, if at all, I clearly wasn’t paying attention. The reason I find this a strike against the film is that even when fidgeting with my phone, I’m pretty good at tracking what’s going on. Here I couldn’t. Why?

Who Are We Talking About?

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If the film’s overall pacing and boring unraveling wasn’t enough of a negative on it, then this might be. I didn’t care for any of the characters. Not one bit. Sue Lyon’s Lolita was most definitely the worst of them all. She suddenly makes Veda Pierce look like an angel. I was definitely siding with her mother when she said, “She is becoming impossible! She’s always been a spiteful little pest.” Not helping matters, probably because I didn’t care for them, is I seldom had any idea as to why any of them were reacting to situations the way they were. It made no sense. The obvious pieces just wouldn’t fit for me, and I think I was missing some of them too.

Once more, take a look at all the events that surround the wanting to flee to Mexico bit. How did they get fixated on Mexico? Why was James Mason’s character acting so unhinged? Something, somehow (that not paying attention thing again) had managed to change his character so drastically, but I’d managed to miss it. What might possibly be worse than understanding this sudden change, is the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to fully care. I’d missed something, big deal. The film would be ending eventually and I could be done with this awfulness. I swear, stepping on glass shard would’ve been more fun. I certainly would’ve woken up. At some point, I even jotted down this lovely note. It reads: “I kind of wish I’d been able to pay attention. At the same time, do I care that I don’t know what’s going on? Yes and no.” That’s really sad.

While this viewing did absolutely nothing for me, and seems to be telling me to steer clear of Kubrick films, I have some hope. I have hope that in some ways this was a fluke. That perhaps the tiredness played more of a role than I realize. That when I get another opportunity to watch this film, I’ll somehow discover that it actually is quite brilliant, and at the least, can appreciate what was accomplished back then. Or, which is also a possibility, I’ll discover that I wasn’t wrong. That no amount of being awake will ever make this film watchable. Now, how long is a good amount of time before I try and watch this film again?

Originally released: June 13, 1962

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writer: Vladimir Nabokov

Starring: James Mason, Shelly Winters, Sue Lyon, Gary Cockrell, Jerry Stovin, Diana Decker, Lois Maxwell, Cec Linder, Bill Greene, Shirley Douglas, Marianne Stone, Marion Mathie, James Dyrenforth, Maxine Holden, John Harrison, Colin Maitland, Terence Kilburn, C. Denier Warren, Rolan Brand and Peter Sellers

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