Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Nearly finished Kubrick's filmography now - just Killer's Kiss and Eyes Wide Shut to go.
This was brilliant, early, restrained Kubrick, just as he was about to turn into brilliant, later, over-the-top Kubrick. I've never read the book, so couldn't compare the two, but the screenplay was written by Nabokov anyway so it has to be authentic.
Famously shot - again - in Britain, Kubrick does a decent job of pretending to be in middle America, except for the exterior scenes of pebble dashed detached house that are unmistakably English. Never mind.
James Mason was astonishing. He must have relished this role, something to get his teeth into with Humbert Humbert's particular brand of desperate depravity. I love James Mason at the best of times (and agree with Eddie Izzard that God MUST have Mason's voice) but he was a real treat to watch here, veering from aloof and respectful, to cunning and manipulative. You feel at once sickened and sorry for the man, given that happiness could be his except happiness is in the shape of a young - too young - girl.
Seller's play Quilty, and when you booked Seller's you really got Seller's. The Rough Guide to film states his performance had "all the nuanced subleties of a Looney Tunes cartoon". Harsh, but true. Regardless I like Sellers and never have a problem with his over the top performances, often finding his desperate gurning and mania can veer into something truly pathetic... in a good way.
Kubrick had a particular fascination with casting comedic/manic actors in his films: the sergeant in full metal jacket, Jack, Alex, all 3 versions of Seller's in Dr Strangelove, Leonard Rossiter in Barry Lyndon. Its easy for accusations of coldness to stick when one's film career has a vein of unhinged characters running through it, but Sellers brought an unearthly third party into Humbert's solopsism which was entirely necessary to the film.