-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
I Am Curious Yellow /|
I Am Curious Blue
casts: Lena Nyman, Borje Ahlstedt, Vilgot Sjoman, and Peter Lindgren
director: Vilgot Sjöman
117 / 103 minutes (18) 1967/8
Second Sight DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
When video hit, everything commercial flooded onto electromagnetic tape and in a few
short years if something was unavailable for home viewing it was noticed. Where is Roger
Spottiswood's Terror Train, we asked? Why can't I rent The Coal Miner's Daughter
or Raging Bull? The Walt Disney feature-films? What about Robert Clouse's Force
Five (still a mystery in the DVD age)? American horrors of the 1970s and early 1980s
that didn't turn up were rare and stood out by their absence (Screams Of A Winter Night,
The Boogens, Chosen Survivors, Effects... still to find an official home
entertainment release in the UK). Of course, there was much that did not come our way, largely
experimental or foreign language.
We are at the same six-year mark where the questions might come again. It might have, but
hasn't. You can be sure that anything that has not hit DVD yet has a label with a mind to
doing something about it. Back in 1982 we had only Palace to rely on to bring the art cult
film to us. There are more and more labels popping up all the time to surge the curious and
amazing to us. We may live in impatient times but most titles have not had the opportunity
to be missed. There is an embarrassment of riches, and two additional decades of film and
digital movies to occupy the releasers. Eureka, Arrow, Artificial Eye, Tartan, C'est La Vie,
BFI, Optimum, Network, Second Run and Pecadillo have been leaders. Soda and Cine File are
doing their best amidst fierce competition from other art house DVD label titles in what
cannot be a large market. Yume Pictures are releasing Bunuel films and prime 1960s' sadism.
Then there is Second Sight. Second Sight mean to hit with a bang and the current batch of
releases are very carefully chosen for cult, controversial or classic appeal.
Quest For Fire,
Monsieur Hire, and Toto The Hero. The label has successfully stormed into view.
The centrepiece to this past month or two's releases is a double bill of Vilgot Sjöman's
I Am Curious Yellow (aka: Jag är nyfiken - en film i gult, 1967), and
I Am Curious Blue (aka: Jag är nyfiken - en film i blått, 1968).
One film, two versions, one yellow, one blue, and "this is the yellow version."
Notorious for its intimate sex scenes... lo and behold, pubic hair... there is a lot more
to both films than unfettered flesh. Sjöman, excited by the possibilities thrown up by
the nouvelle vague, the Hungarian school, and perhaps even Richard Lester, turns the medium
upside down and inside out. Sjöman plays himself, Lena Nyman both his lover and his
leading actress for a film to be made within the film. She is apolitical but he radicalises
her by sending her out in a character not too distant from her apparently simple self (in
truth she is bright and it eventually shines through) to interview the public gathering
opinion on the class system in Sweden. "No politics please," is a common working
class response. "Well, of course, when we eat..." ... "Ask someone else!"
The questions evolve based upon the responses. Beatniks abound and many share the director's
facial hairstyle. Something is happening; they all know their place and refuse to talk about
it. The cross section of the public interviewed is substantial. The interviews take place at
various venues, places of work, and the street. The sample presented is large enough that the
viewer can casually and automatically analyse it. The survey is beyond dispute, reminiscent
of the factual hammering of Emile de Antonio's Rush To Judgement. The constancy and
consistency of response and the gauntlet of views is the sure evidence, in its visual presentation
apparently complete. As they answer, the well off rarely smile, the grafters response is one
of embarrassed dismissal.
A death notice in the newspaper announces Sjöman's passing on the 7th of June 1974,
seven years hence. Whatever he was predicting, he made it well beyond his 50th birthday,
passing away only earlier this year. More interviews. "Have you heard of non-violence?"
... "Non-violence? No!" The film is underway and the girl turns her simple accommodation
into the Nyman's Institute, officiated by a scribbled on scrap of paper pinned to the door. She
is excited by historical cases of activism but her enthusiasm is forced, a boast of her newly
acquired knowledge. She goes into the streets to educate people, she and her compadres, declaring
common tools too fast (the national newspapers) or too slow (science). "Read 'Svenska
Dagbladet', the paper with the oldest views. The paper with sciatica." Free love enters
the frame and the censorship board's response to the script is included into the film. Twenty-one
years of age and 23 lovers, the girl is immoral. Her cod politics take a backseat to her tempestuous
affair with another activist, who has a wife and child that he holds secret from Lena. Lena
learns of them and disappears to the country. He tracks her down. They become very physical
in the grass and bicker again. The film crew try not to get involved. The films, within and
I Am Curious Blue seems more immediately concerned with sex. Sjöman is screen-testing
actresses and Lena is displeased. She harasses him; he mocks her. "You make a film on the
class system and you buy a flat on the black market." There is no comeback possible from
that. Not a sequel, but simultaneously told, the gaps are filled in for the 'film within'. Maj
Hulton is a female doctor educating a small group of girls on sex. "If gay women have sex
is that mutual onanism?" asks one. Sjöman proudly rolls out the correspondence received
since the first film, abusive mail: "Congratulations on finding such a young, adept whore
as Lena, you'll get a lot out of her privately by renting her." An al fresco show is made
of people asked to give their line of work and annual gross income. Very Michael Moore. Where
now? How about the Church? "Swedes are going away from the Church, thank God!" A project
for the future is declared, a May Day demo in 1974, seemingly tied to the headstone of the yellow
film. What exactly is Sjöman predicting to be the personal dramatic outcome of this? Execution
for treason... Martyrdom? A beating into a coma; and then pulled off the life support system? The
research is going nowhere: people always revert to differences and distinctions; modern man is
committed only to a cycle of evolution and devolution. The triangular drama of the film within
is replayed, as is the STD outcome.
Whereas I Am Curious Yellow is fresh, vibrant and informative, the reprise that is
..Blue shaves away some of the cool success of the first film, its originality diminished
by its less than radiant aura of its dim other half. Blue is bitty by comparison, not
a poor film but hit and miss. Unique and yellow would have been preferable but there are two
films and that cannot be changed. Watch one and you will have to watch the other, so it is tidy
that Second Sight saw fit to release them together on the one disc and not aim to profit by a
second release. Yellow is an important film and Blue its sketchy far inferior partner.