I Am Curious (Yellow)

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I Am Curious (Yellow)
CuriousYellowPoster.jpg
North American release poster
Directed byVilgot Sjöman
Produced byGöran Lindgren (uncredited)
Lena Malmsjö
Written byVilgot Sjöman (uncredited)
StarringVilgot Sjöman
Lena Nyman
Börje Ahlstedt
Music byBengt Ernryd (uncredited)
CinematographyPeter Wester (uncredited)
Edited byWic Kjellin (uncredited)
Production
company
Distributed byGrove Press
Release date
  • 9 October 1967 (1967-10-09)
Running time
122 minutes
CountrySweden
LanguageSwedish
Box office$27.7 million (US/Sweden)

I Am Curious (Yellow) (Swedish: Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult, meaning "I Am Curious: A Film in Yellow") is a 1967 Swedish drama film written and directed by Vilgot Sjöman, starring Sjöman and Lena Nyman. It is a companion film to 1968's I Am Curious (Blue); the two were initially intended to be one ​3 12 hour film.[1]

Plot[edit]

Director Vilgot Sjöman plans to make a social film starring his lover Lena Nyman, a young theater student who has a strong interest in social issues.

Nyman's character, also named Lena, lives with her father in a small apartment in Stockholm and is driven by a burning passion for social justice and a need to understand the world, people and relationships. Her little room is filled with books, papers, and boxes full of clippings on topics such as "religion" and "men", and files on each of the 23 men with whom she has had sex. The walls are covered with pictures of concentration camps and a portrait of Francisco Franco, reminders of the crimes being perpetrated against humanity. She walks around Stockholm and interviews people about social classes in society, conscientious objection, gender equality, and the morality of vacationing in Franco's Spain. She and her friends also picket embassies and travel agencies. Lena's relationship with her father, who briefly went to Spain to fight Franco, is problematic, and she is distressed by the fact that he returned from Spain for unknown reasons after only a short period.

Through her father Lena meets the slick Bill (Börje in the original Swedish), who works at a menswear shop and voted for the Rightist Party. They begin a love affair, but Lena soon finds out from her father that Bill has another woman, Marie, and a young daughter. Lena is furious that Bill has not been open with her, and goes to the country on a bicycle holiday. Alone in a cabin in the woods, she attempts an ascetic lifestyle, meditating, studying nonviolence and practicing yoga. Bill soon comes looking for her in his new car. She greets him with a shotgun, but they soon start to make love. Lena confronts Bill about Marie, and finds out about another of his lovers, Madeleine. They begin to fight and Bill leaves. Lena has strange dreams, in which she ties two teams of soccer players – she notes that they number 23 – to a tree, shoots Bill and cuts his penis off. She also dreams of being taunted by passing drivers as she cycles down a road, until finally Martin Luther King Jr. drives up. She apologizes to him for not being strong enough to practice nonviolence.

Lena returns home, destroys her room, and goes to the car showroom where Bill works to tell him she has scabies. They are treated at a clinic, and then go their separate ways. As the embedded story of Lena and Bill begins to resolve, the film crew and director Sjöman are featured more. The relationship between Lena the actress and Bill the actor has become intimate during the production of Vilgot's film, and Vilgot is jealous and clashes with Bill. The film concludes with Lena returning Vilgot's keys as he meets with another young female theater student.

Nonfictional content[edit]

The film also includes an interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., filmed in March 1966, when King was visiting Stockholm along with Harry Belafonte with a view to starting a new initiative for Swedish support of African Americans.[2] The film also includes an interview with Minister of Transportation Olof Palme, who talks about the existence of class structure in Swedish society (he was told it was for a documentary film), and footage of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

Cast[edit]

Uncredited roles

Release[edit]

Director Vilgot Sjöman together with actress Lena Nyman.

Censorship[edit]

The film includes numerous and frank scenes of nudity and staged sexual intercourse. One particularly controversial scene features Lena kissing her lover's flaccid penis. In 1969, the film was banned in Massachusetts for being pornographic and Boston police seized the film reels for I Am Curious (Yellow) from the Symphony Cinemas. After proceedings in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Karalexis v. Byrne, 306 F. Supp. 1363 (D. Mass. 1969)), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States (Byrne v. Karalexis, 396 U.S. 976 (1969) and 401 U.S. 216 (1971)), the Second Circuit found the film not to be obscene.[3][4]

An arsonist torched the Heights Theater in Houston during the film's run there.[5]

Box office[edit]

The film was very popular at the box office, earning an estimated $6.6 million in North American rentals.[6] It was the 12th most popular film in the US in 1969.[7] One reason it did so well was that it became popular among film stars to be seen going to the film. News of Johnny Carson seeing the film legitimized going to see it despite any misgivings about possible pornographic content.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Contemporary[edit]

Initial reception to Curious Yellow was divided. Vincent Canby of the New York Times referred to it as a "Good, serious movie about a society in transition,"[9] and Norman Mailer said he felt "like a better man" after having seen it. Conversely, Rex Reed described the film as "about as good for you as drinking furniture polish" and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times lambasted it as "a dog... a real dog" and "stupid and slow and uninteresting.".[10]

Retrospective[edit]

In recent years, Yellow has received some reappraisal, thanks in part to Gary Giddins, who authored the 2003 essay accompanying the Criterion Collection DVD release, and a review by Nathan Southern on the All Movie Guide website. Southern assesses the picture as "a droll and sophisticated comedy about the emotional, political, social, and sexual liberation of a young woman... a real original that has suffered from public incomprehension since its release and is crying out for reassessment and rediscovery.".[11]

As of August 2015, "I Am Curious (Yellow)" received a 52% rating based on 25 reviews, 13 "fresh" and 12 "rotten" on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

Accolades[edit]

Olof Palme (who played himself in an uncredited role in the movie) and Lena Nyman, taken at the Guldbagge Award ceremony. Nyman won the 1967 award for Best Actress in a leading role.

Nyman won the award for Best Actress at the 5th Guldbagge Awards for her role in this film and I Am Curious (Blue).[12]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vilgot Sjöman, I Was Curious: Diary of the Making of a Film (Grove Press, 1968).
  2. ^ Sjöman, published screenplay (Grove Press, 1968).
  3. ^ I Am Curious / Jag är nyfiken | Film International
  4. ^ Whitebloom, Kenny (10 August 2011). "The Curious Case of 'I am Curious'". Boston TV News Digital Library. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Heights Theater History » Gallery M Squared". Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970, p. 15.
  7. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films". Sunday Times (London, England) 27 September 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 April 2014
  8. ^ Blood, Kirk L. (2016). My 1st Wife Had a Borderline Personality Disorder. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 978-1-329-90421-7.
  9. ^ By VINCENT CANBYMARCH 11, 1969 (1969-03-11). "Screen: 'I Am Curious (Yellow)' From Sweden - The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. "I Am Curious (Yellow) Movie Review (1969) - Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com.
  11. ^ "I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967) - Vilgot Sjöman - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  12. ^ "Lena Nyman". Swedish Film Institute. 1 March 2014.
  13. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (19 May 2014). "Review: 'Mad Men' - 'The Strategy': Regrets, I've had a few". Hitfix: What's Alan Watching?.

External links[edit]