The American release of the film, which stars Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith and newcomer Dominique Swain, has been delayed for over a year (filming actually wrapped in February 1996) due to an inability of the film's producers to find a distributor for the $62 million project. The film will open later this week in Italy, Spain and Germany, but even the French release has been postponed until January due to controversy.
What's the big deal? Well, for those who slept through Lit 101, Lolita is the story of the aging Humbert Humbert and his obsessive love for the 12-year-old Lolita, an obsession which leads to repeated sexual dalliances even as she turns more manipulative in doling out sexual favors and he turns more pathetic in accepting them.
But according to reports from San Sebastian following the film's screening, the subject matter is not the biggest concern (the filmmakers reportedly stayed within the bounds of the 1996 Child Pornography Act, so sex is only implied, never shown), rather the characters are remorseless for their actions. In fact, Irons' character celebrates the death of Lolita's mother as an opportunity to get closer to the child. Apparently, some things just work better on paper.
While Griffith has remained on the ethical sidelines, Irons and Lyne (9 1/2 Weeks) have been outspoken in their criticisms of American distributors and values. "I think the atmosphere in America now has changed over the last three or four years and is similar, in fact, to the way it was in the '50s," Lyne told a San Sebastian press conference.
Irons added: "Why I think it's desperately important that this film and films like it be seen and continue to be made is that it allows us to be adult, discerning, moral people who can see a story and be shocked by it, be appalled by it, be amazed by it, be excited by it, or whatever--but make up our own minds."