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A clip from "Lolita"

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Lyne refuses to let 'Lolita' be swept under carpet

Web posted on: Thursday, July 30, 1998 4:48:24 PM

From Correspondent Jim Moret

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- It doesn't seem to add up. "Lolita," the Vladimir Nabokov novel, was recently voted one of the top English-language books of the 20th century by the Modern Library. And yet film versions of the story of an older man's sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl -- one by Stanley Kubrick in 1961, and the latest by Adrian Lyne -- have met with heavy criticism for their content, with Lyne's version failing to even land a U.S. distributor.

It's as if Nabokov's story on paper is acceptable -- nothing but black and white words on a page. But when Nabokov's story comes to life in vivid color on a big screen, it's just too much for some people to handle.

Is "Lolita"'s content worth the controversy? Go to the boards!

"Shame on (Lyne) and shame on the people that are bringing this to audiences around the world," says Robert Peters, president of Morality in the Media, Inc.

"The idea that you should sweep something under the carpet and pretend it doesn't exist is wrong," counters Lyne. The debate is heating up as Lyne's "Lolita," starring Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain, prepares to make its nationwide debut on Showtime and the Sundance Channel.

When Swain sat in Irons' lap, a cushion was used to prevent any sort of physical contact

'For legal reasons ...'

The film was shown at one Los Angeles theater for a week to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. Aside from that, for the last year, "Lolita" has only played on the international market.

Much like Kubrick's version, this updated interpretation of "Lolita" is a hotbed for debate. For a time, even Irons questioned his own judgement in playing a pedophile opposite newcomer Swain, who was 14 at the time.

"For legal reasons I wasn't able to go anywhere near her, and yet I was playing a relationship where I was having an affair with her, so it was a very difficult to shoot in that way," says Irons. "When she sat on my lap, we put a cushion on my lap so there was no sort of possible physical relationship."

'That's what art is'

Despite the controversy, Swain thinks this movie serves a constructive purpose.

"Things that bring out your emotions are what should be in theaters and in books," she says. "That's what art is. It makes you feel things."

"It's not a film that encourages criminality," says Irons. "It is a film that helps us to understand our mutual humanity."

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