Lolita (1997): Special Edition (Remastered)

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Released 24-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Deleted Scenes-9
Featurette-Casting Sessions
Featurette
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary-Adrian Lyne (Director)
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 131:54
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (94:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Adrian Lyne
Studio
Distributor
Mario Kassar
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Jeremy Irons
Melanie Griffith
Frank Langella
Dominique Swain
Case ?
RPI $19.80 Music Ennio Morricone


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    When Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita he sparked a scandal in the literary world that resulted in his novel being banned in several countries. Indeed, his work is regarded with controversy every time it returns to the fore – after it was adapted for the screen by Nabokov himself for the Stanley Kubrick version in 1962, and again after its adaptation for the screen by Stephen Schiff in this 1997 version directed by Adrian Lyne. Indeed, extensive efforts were made by various fringe political groups (who shall remain unnamed) to have the Office of Film and Literature Classification revoke its R18+ classification of the Lyne version and have the film refused classification, thereby effectively banning it. Being vehemently anti-censorship myself, I was pleased to see that the OFLC stood by its original decision and this new adaptation was allowed restricted release.

    So why is Lolita such controversial subject matter? Put simply, this is a tale of paedophilia, of an adult’s sexual attraction to a child more than half his age. The story follows Nabokov’s tragically obsessed and deluded central character, Humbert Humbert (here played by Jeremy Irons), who has never recovered from the trauma of losing his childhood love. Upon moving to the US from England he finds himself boarding at the residence of the crass Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffith) who is romantically interested in Mr. Humbert. However, Humbert finds himself intoxicated by Haze’s fourteen year old daughter Delores (Dominique Swain) whose emergent sexuality leads her to flirtatious behaviour which Humbert interprets through an adult lens of romanticism. In order to stay with Delores, Humbert marries Charlotte and embarks upon a mission to seduce Delores (or being seduced by her, Nobokov’s tale is never exactly clear on this issue) and turn her into his adult lover, Lolita, all the while blind to the vast chasm in maturity and personality between them both that can only end in tragedy.

    Certainly, the subject matter of Lolita is contentious. What various extremist critical elements fail to denote, however, is that Lolita in no way glorifies paedophiles or paedophilia. Indeed, through Humbert, the viewer is taken on a journey that highlights the self-destructive nature of paedophilia. Nabokov’s story allows us to pity Humbert for his pathetic attempts to capture a long lost dream, his inability to grow up and move beyond a painful moment in his childhood, and yet retain our disgust for a man that only sees the damage he has done to those he professes to love at the very end when that damage is irreversible. His complete blindness to the true nature of Delores, his infatuation (indeed, his obsession) with a child that is more brat than temptress, is both sad and sickening which makes the story that much more engaging as an examination of such behaviour.

    Much has been made of comparison between the Kubrick version and the Lyne version and I do not intend to embark upon a lengthy exposition here. Suffice it to say that both versions have their merits and their weaknesses. Limiting my discussion to this 1997 version alone, what this film has is a talented cast, stunning cinematography, fantastic performances, excellent production values, and a superb score by one of the best in the business – Ennio Morricone. What it lacks is the rambling incoherence of the novel that highlights Humbert’s delusional obsession, a full and proper examination of the contrasts between Humbert and the even more predatory paedophile Clare Quilty (Frank Langella), and the open-ended mystery that the novel retains and Lyne’s version quashes with a still card. In any case, both adaptations fail to fully grasp the complexities of the novel and I feel that if you truly wish to understand the tale of Humbert Humbert and Lolita you must read Nabokov’s work.

    Lyne’s version of Lolita would make an interesting study piece for a film class at University and I do recommend it to anyone with an interest in literature and film study. It is, however, ultimately an arthouse film that will likely bore those going to it seeking some form of expose of teenage sexuality. This is not a Larry Clark film. This is something else entirely.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original aspect ratio.

    The transfer of this film is pretty good, and certainly better than the original release which was withdrawn from shelves by the distributor. It is still far from pristine perfect, but given that this was an independent film to start with it is hardly surprising that we do not have the Hollywood finish.

    Colours are well saturated and balanced although not exactly glowing off the screen. There is a more subtle, muted feel to the colour here, which I think is more a product of the source than the transfer. Shadow detail is quite good though not exceptional.

    There is a fine mist of film graininess that is generally present, plus an overall softness to the image that was an intentional part of the filming of the movie so as to retain a 40s period feel, but nevertheless makes for a difficult transfer to DVD.

    There are no glaring MPEG artefacts, and while aliasing is no real problem, there is however some low-level noise present in the background in the more shadowy scenes which is at times distracting.

    Dirt is a bit of a problem, and this is hardly the cleanest print from which to make a transfer.

    Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired only. They are white with a black edge and follow the dialogue (and over-voice monologue) pretty much word-for-word.

    The dual layer pause occurs at 94:53 in the middle of a scene. It is quite noticeable but could have been placed in the middle of a line of dialogue which would have been much worse.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track available.

    This track is quite good, with dialogue coming through clearly and with an absence of audio sync issues.

    The range is quite good, with Morricone’s score given a fine treatment.

    This is a fairly front-driven, dialogue oriented film and there is comparatively little in the way of directional cues. The rears did get some work out with the score but were not heavily utilised.

    There is little call for subwoofer use in this film, but the confrontation between Humbert and Quilty gave it a slight usage.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a 2.0 Dolby Stereo soundtrack.

Feature Commentary: Adrian Lyne (Director)

    Presented in 2.0 Dolby Stereo, Lyne’s commentary does not shed all that much light on the themes of the film, but rather he goes through the film complimenting himself on making such a fantastic work of art, i.e. “I like ‘such-and-such’ about this part of my film; I like ‘this-and-that’ about this part of my film”. Plus there are lots of long pauses. Certainly not the best commentary track I have heard.

Deleted Scenes

    Presented in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, there are 9 deleted scenes:

    The scene “The Enchanted Hunters” also includes the nude footage of Swain’s body double Dawn Mauer that was removed in order for the film to gain an R rating.

Theatrical Trailer (0:52)

    Presented in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, the transfer of this trailer is pretty rough.

Casting Featurette: Dominique Swain (11:49)

    Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Stereo, and obviously shot on video. This is Swain’s screen test, shot in New York in 1995 with Jeremy Irons, and with Adrian Lyne giving direction and then the final scene as it appears in the film for a comparison.

Featurette: Dominique Swain (8:21)

    Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a largely promotional featurette centred primarily around an interview with director Adrian Lyne and actors Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith and Dominique Swain.

Biographies

    There are biographies here for:

    These are not terribly extensive biographies and are only one frame.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The write up of the R1 release of this film in Widescreen Review would seem to indicate that it is identical to the R4 release barring the NTSC/PAL differential. If you intend to buy, then buy whichever is cheapest.

Summary

    Lolita is a piece of art more akin to a literary painting than a movie. While flawed, it will certainly generate discussion if you see it with a group of thinkers.

    Video is a little soft, still, and exhibits some minor artefacts, but is far better than the original release.

    Sound is quite good although not perfectly balanced.

    The extras are good (though not necessarily extensive) and worth a tour.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Censorship - Miklos (my stinkin' bio) REPLY POSTED
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