L—-a (1997)


We can’t even type the name of this movie, based on the masterful Vladimir Nabakov novel, without freaking out internet censors. You can blame gross people who use it as a euphemism for despicable criminal conduct.

Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of Navabov’s novel proved that you didn’t need to be explicit to tell the mortifyingly sad story of Humbert Humbert, who abducts and abuses his young stepdaughter, Dolores Haze, while lying to the audience and himself that it’s a consensual love affair instead of a serious of horrendous crimes.

Adrian Lyne’s 1997 version decided that relaxed standards in the 1990s would allow him to finally adapt Vladimir Nabakov’s novel without leaving things to the imagination — but his timing was very bad. During the making of the film, President Clinton just signed the Child Pornography Prevention Act, which banned depictions of sexual activity by minors. Though Lynn was using an adult body double for 15-year-old lead actress Dominique Swain, distributors were so spooked that the film debuted not in theaters, but on Showtime.

Lynn may have just gone about the whole thing wrong: Nabakov’s novel contains not a single dirty word. Kubrick’s adaptation was up to the challenge of adapting it, with similar restraint, and Lyne’s artistic endeavor felt unnecessary and misguided.