Saturday, August 6, 2011

#180: I Am Curious - Yellow

(Vilgot Sjöman, 1967)

This is probably the worst movie I've seen that has the Criterion seal of approval (and yes, I'm including Armageddon). I don't mean the movie I hate the most, or even the movie that seems least deserving of its place in the collection (yes, I mean Armageddon this time), but instead the movie that is in reality a bad movie. As in poorly conceived, poorly acted, and poorly executed. It makes And God Created Woman look like the Citizen Kane of sexual odysseys.

The film gained fame for the pornography charges it received when it arrived in America. Like any other time in history that accusations of an overabundance of sex and/or violence have been leveled at a movie, television show, album, or video game, the film became an overnight sensation as people flocked to the forbidden. Expecting to get a sexual buffet of Swedish delight and ending up with a meaningless look at an unattractive woman's head-first plunge into the 60s wilderness of sexual and political awakenings - made duller by a meta-exploration of the filmmaker's role in the film he is making - must have been one of the great disappointments of the decade for horny young men, lustily begging for a sexual lifeline in the pre-internet, pre-porno-theater era.

Sjöman was clearly attempting with his film to wrap his arms around much of the political upheaval of the era. Instead, he comes across as a forty-something mediocre filmmaker failing to fit in at the party. In the process he rips off Godard in ways that make it seem like he has less idea what Godard was talking about than I do, and attempts to channel Bergman (whom he interviewed for a documentary) in scenes that feel less like humanity revealed than they do like humanity scratching their collective nails on a chalkboard. The sex scenes were clearly meant to be devoid of sexuality, but were they also meant to be devoid of interest?

I Am Curious - Yellow apparently serves one purpose in film history: to reveal how sexual repressed we used to be that a film like this could have had any kind of notable impact on the culture. The fact that it had been largely forgotten and never released on video (and was unlikely to be otherwise released on DVD - trust me, this is one Criterion film that is never going out of print because someone else wants the rights) was probably what made it so attractive to the people at Janus. Anyway, this seems to be the only meaningful reason I'm reviewing this as a Criterion film. I can't wait to sit through another hour and a half of this garbage!

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