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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

RATING: 7/10
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. Les Valseuses, Quest For Fire, Noce Blanche, Brief Crossing, 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 without, crisscross.
Rating: 8/10

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.
Rating: 6/10

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.
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