#30 | February 26 - March 5, 1998  smlogo.gif

Krazy Kevin's Kino Korner

In This Issue
Feature Story
Press Review
Kino Korner


A Dingo Ate My Baby

Make that a Jackal ate my Lolita. Which is a not very clever way of saying what's in this week's Kino Korner.

A year and a half after the completion of filming, Adrian Lyne's new Adaptation of the Nabokov novel has finally arrived in Russia. Meanwhile, a Blockbuster-influenced North America may never see the damn thing. The French production company that footed most of the picture's $65 million price tag must be shitting bricks at this point: not only is the American market a no go, but potentially huge Western European markets such as France and even Belgium, where highly publicized pedophilia scandals have the distributors scared stupid, are dragging their feet.

The situation is so bad that Nabokov progeny Dmitri has been sent out as a cheerleader for the film. Of course, Nabokov himself had plenty of kind words for the 1962 Kubrick version--even if the latter all but ignored Nabokov's screenplay when making the film. But keep in mind that it was precisely the half million bucks he was paid for this screenplay that let him quit teaching and devote himself full-time to writing.

As for Dmitri, he may have made a name for himself as the occasional translator of his father's works, but he has also done plenty to embarrass himself over the years--in particular, while living in Spain he organized a bogus casting call for the title role in the Kubrick film. This shameless attempt to use his father's newfound fame to score with teenagers may endear Dmitri to us here at the eXile, but it hardly makes his praise of Adrian Flashdance Lyne worth taking seriously.

While in Moscow last week, Dmitri perceptively noted that the Kubrick film was "black and white," while Lyne's is "very colorful." He also claimed to be so happy with the new Lolita that he wants Lyne to do Ada. Letting Lyne has his way with Ada would be like leaving a heroin addict alone with a few grams of uncut gear and telling him to take only "a little." The last thing this guy needs as source material is a 700-page family history in which a brother and sister have a life-long affair and live happily together into their twilight years. Just the thought of Rue McClanahan and Don Ameche in 9 1/2 Weeks-style sex scenes gives me dry heaves.

Returning to the new Lolita: As I predicted a few weeks ago, it's not terribly good, but it is sorta interesting and probably makes a better Lolita than Kubrick's, which essentially ended up as a vehicle for Peter Sellers.

One thing Lyne gets very right is to return the Quilty character to the ghostly level it inhabits in the novel. The obscured, smoke-in-face shots of Frank Langella may be a bit much, but the character's rapid transformation during the climactic showdown from hung-over socialite to all-knowing authorial involution is masterfully handled. And any sick fucks who have been wondering what Langella's schlong looks like are in for a treat.

Miss Swain, hawking Ray-Bans
There are plenty of other good things about the film, but almost every element (with the exception of Melanie Griffith, uniformly unbearable as Lolita's mother and wisely disposed of at the absolute earliest opportunity) is wildly uneven. For instance, Jeremy Irons is stellar nearly throughout as Humbert, expertly evoking alternating wonder and despair with his precocious nymphet. Yet in some scenes, he flops completely.

In the title role, Dominique Swain (15 at the time of filming) also performs admirably, but Lyne spends so much time ogling her that it is impossible not to notice that she is well beyond nymphet age.

The ever-subtle Lyne is off most frequently. His relegation of Humbert's tragic childhood experience with Annabel to a montage during the opening credits, the pseudo-Euro alienation scenes with Humbert shown against bleak rural landscapes, and the tendency toward music-video-style shots of Lolita's ever-elevated legs and crotch are just a few of the most glaring offenses. But the main problem is that Lyne and first-time screenwriter Stephen Schiff have reduced Nabokov's novel to just one of its (at least) three levels--the basic plot--often focusing on the elements of the story that Nabokov depicted in minimal detail or not at all.

And there really is no excuse for the movie's use of the widespread American mispronunciation "Low-lita" when the author himself described precisely how the name should be pronounced: "The first syllable is as in 'lollipop'" (Strong Opinions). If this seems like excessive nitpicking, remember that this is the same writer who began his book on Gogol with an explanation of how that name should be pronounced, followed by the statement, "One should not hope to nderstand an author if one cannot even pronounce his name."

Major kudos, on the other hand, to Lolita's lively updating of Fargo's classic "No Jean, no money!" line to "No picnic, no church!"

Bruce doing his best Val Kilmer
The Jackal is another remake, updating the 1973 classic The Day of the Jackal to the present day. This one requires no pretentious discourse: it just sucks. But it's also one of the more hilarious films I've seen in weeks, particularly for anyone with even a faint interest in linguistics.

At least three of the stars attempt to speak Russian. Bruce Willis tosses off a passable "yesli mozhno, k delu." Sidney Poitier's efforts also make the grade. The big loser is Diane Venora, playing an MVD (which acronym is thrown around unexplained, much as KGB might have been 10 years ago) officer and the only character who's supposed to be Russian. She seems incapable of even the modest heights attained by Willis and Poitier. (See the Jackal page at www.filmscouts.com for an interview in which she discusses "learning Russian.")

Is that a gerbil lodged in my ass or am I just happy to see you?
Meanwhile, Richard Gere becomes the latest in a long line of Americans to play an IRA terrorist complete with Celtic accent. Also, pay close attention to the harbor scene: you'll notice that Gere tends to run like someone with a rodent stuck in his ass. That's not me being mean--it's the truth!

It would be boringly pedantic to enumerate even a small fraction of the plot holes here, but it's worth wondering why the world's greatest assassin is obsessed with shooting "uranium-tipped bullets" from a massive device when a rifle would do the trick (and decrease his chances of getting caught). I'm also at a loss as to what the Jackal's misogynistic and homophobic tendencies are all about. Maybe this is just a PC way of establishing him as a "bad" character. There have been so many noble criminal characters in recent years that I suppose you can never be too careful. Three cheers for the Basque ex machina ending, though.

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