This movie’s gonna be on again at the TIFF Cinematheque at 4PM today. I also don’t know why I would tolerate Humbert’s (James Mason) actions, decisions and the ramifications for both. Others would find them out of character for a professor – but then he’s teaching at Bumfuck, Ohio and not Harvard. Either I accepted him as a part of the genre or he’s the kind of character I love to hate and I’ll tolerate his stupidity just to see him suffer. I’ll find more theories when I have the time. The film also suffers from pacing issues, specifically between the hour mark until the last half hour. Sue Lyon as Lolita is amazing until one or two unconvincing line reads at the last exchange of the movie.
Cinematheque’s write-up has an excerpt of what Michel Ciment calling “Lolita” ‘a decisive turning point for Kubrick… one of the keys to his inner universe,’ which is more eloquent than what’s in my head. I can’t fully love the movie, but with “Lolita” and its humour I understood “The Shining” and “Eyes Wide Shut” better. I always thought that the former was funny yet overrated while I have vague recollections of the latter but it’s obviously divisive. I feel as if my appreciation of Kubrick would be better if I watched his movies chronologically.
I pretty much agree with Ebert when he talks about the expressionist mise-en-scene of this 1930 Josef von Sternberg film, that Prof. Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) can do downward spiral in his sleep and that the movie is an interesting depiction of the vaudeville. I’d add this movie might as well be a handbook on cruelty, from the pre-Kubrickian beatings that the students gave to the nerd who ratted them out to Lola Lola’s (Marlene Dietrich) seemingly bipolar mistreatment of Rath. That I found it unbelievable that Rath couldn’t ee that this relationship is creepy. That Lola hasn’t earned it enough to ensnare Rath by a flash of underwear here and there. That Lola’s emotions are inconsistent throughout the film. As much as von Sternberg will always be the go to director for pre-code exoticism and amorality, I still find this with merit but dated.