I Am Curious (Yellow), whose original Swedish title, Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult, translates as I Am Curious – A Film in Yellow, is a 1967 Swedish drama film written and directed byVilgot Sjöman and 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 3½ hour film. The films are named after the colours of the Swedish flag.
Contents[edit | edit source]
Plot[edit | edit source]
Lena'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 non-violence and practicing yoga. Bill soon comes looking for her in his new car. She greets him with a shot gun, 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 football 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 non-violence.
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.
In addition to the footage of King, the film also includes an interview with Minister of Transportation Olof Palme, who talks about the existence of class structure in Swedish society, and footage of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Vilgot Sjöman as Vilgot Sjöman
- Lena Nyman as Lena
- Börje Ahlstedt as Börje
- Peter Lindgren as Lena's father
- Chris Wahlström as Rune's woman
- Marie Göranzon as Marie
- Magnus Nilsson as Magnus
- Ulla Lyttkens as Ulla
- Anders Ek as Exercise leader
- Martin Luther King as Himself
- Olof Palme as Himself
- Yevgeny Yevtushenko as Himself
- Holger Löwenadler as The King (uncredited)
- Bertil Norström as Factory worker (uncredited)
- Dora Söderberg Old lady in elevator (uncredited)
- Öllegård Wellton as Yevtushenko's Interpreter (uncredited)
- Sven Wollter as Captain (uncredited)
Style[edit | edit source]
Yellow was a landmark film that helped define the emergent change in Swedish film of the 1960s. Like French New Wave, the film uses jump cuts and its story is not structured in a conventionalHollywood way. It also contains documentary elements; for example, it features a brief appearance by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who is interviewed by Sjöman about his views on civil disobedience. It was part of a wave of Swedish left wing films in the 60's and early 70's that were helped by the founding of the Swedish Film Institute when Harry Schein attempted to start a Swedish New Wave. Yellow was the only film of the wave of left wing films that made any money and the movement had little significance to the Swedish public. The interview with Martin Luther King was filmed in March 1966, when Dr. King and Harry Belafonte were in Stockholm to start a new initiative for Swedish support of African Americans.
Censorship[edit | edit source]
The film includes numerous and frank scenes of nudity and staged sexual intercourse. In one particularly controversial scene, Lena kisses her lover's flaccid penis. In 1969, the film was banned inMassachusetts for being pornographic. However, after proceedings in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Karalexis v. Byrne, 306 F. Supp. 1363 (D. Mass. 1969)), theUnited 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.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Initial reception to the films were hostile with Vincent Canby of The New York Times stating that, "I'm not very fond of this sort of moviemaking, which tries to disarm conventional criticism by exploiting formlessness as meaningful itself."
The film was very popular at the box office, earning an estimated $6.6 million in rentals in North America. One of the main reasons that it was a box office smash was that it was the first movie with sexual relations performed onscreen that was not confined to the porn movie theaters on 42nd Street, New York City. Millions of people who had never seen a porn movie flocked to safe neighborhood theaters to see what it was all about. Another reason was that it became popular among "stars" to be seen going to this movie, and that made the general public even more interested. News of Johnny Carson seeing the film legitimized going to see it. This movie ushered in a wave of nudity and sex never before shown to the general public, and it was the first shot in the war that was to begin in pushing the limits of movies for the general public.
In popular culture[edit | edit source]
- Title references
- The Get Smart episode "I Am Curiously Yellow", which was the series finale
- The That Girl episode "I Am Curious Lemon"
- Issue #101 of The Amazing Spider-Man wherein Gwen Stacy suggests seeing the movie with Peter Parker.
- The Fall’s 1988 album I Am Kurious Oranj (which in turn inspired Lee and Herring's popular comedy character "The Curious Orange", portrayed by Paul Putner)
- The Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane issue "I Am Curious (Black)" wherein Lois Lane becomes a Black woman for a day
- The Melrose Place episode "I Am Curious Melrose"
- The Moonlighting episode "I Am Curious... Maddie"
- The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "I Am Curious Ed"
- The Simpsons episode "I Am Furious (Yellow)"
- General references
- Curious Yellow, a virtual world in Jeff Noon's novel Vurt.
- A fluorescent chartreuse color named "curious yellow", which Chrysler Corporation offered as an optional-at-extra-cost "High Impact Paint (HIP)" color on its 1971 Plymouth cars.
- Curious Yellow is the name of a network worm in Glasshouse by Charles Stross, based on the name of the worm described in this paper by Brandon Wiley: Curious Yellow: The First Coordinated Worm Design.
- In her book You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, producer Julia Phillips mentions a film script entitled I Am Furious (Yellow), an unproduced comedy script about a woman who becomes enraged whenever she sees the color yellow. Phillips mentions that she was considering the project as a starring vehicle for Madonna.
- In an episode of The Lucy Show, Jack Benny (who was once a spokesman for Jell-O) tells Lucy that he's working on a film entitled I Am Curious, Jell-O.
- In an issue of Mad Magazine, a movie theater advertises a film called "I Am Lecherous (Purple)" and in a do-it-yourself New Wave film advertisement using an assortment of random words, one of your choices is "I am ____ (____)"
- In "Death in the Family", an episode of the BBC comedy series Steptoe and Son, Harold raises his father's spirits after the death of their horse by promising to take him to see "I Am Curious (Yellow)".