11 April 2006

Time Changes, Part II: Still Curious?

I didn't intend for the past post to be a two-parter, but since posting, I found out that Vilgot Sjöman, director of the hugely controversial I Am Curious (Yellow) died the other day. I Am Curious (Yellow) is one of those boring black-and-white foreign-language films that shocked your grandparents (especially after Jackie Kennedy was seen leaving a theatre screening the film!! Oh, heavens.) On the Criterion disc for the film, there's a documentary entitled The Battle for 'I Am Curious (Yellow)', which better depicts the uproar the film caused back in the late-60s than I can. Basically, the film came out, had a bunch of naked people in it (it's rumored to have been the first mainstream film to show a penis; another fellow Swede, Ingmar Bergman, had to cut a quick shot of an erect penis out of Persona just a year prior), and became the subject of a number of US court cases, only to become the highest grossing foreign-language film in the United States, until the heyday of Miramax feel-gooders in the mid-90s (Il Postino beat the record). Essentially, I Am Curious (Yellow) is far more important than it is good; it's Godard-meta, before Godard even was... and to an equal level of tedium. Basically the question I posed in my previous blog resurfaces, but the answer here is far more clear. As I don't have an extensive knowledge of the realms of exploitation cinema, the question of desensitation versus the quality of the films discussed could very easily be answered by someone with a better knowledge of the subject matter. Here, we have a film that the US deemed pornographic, yet couldn't even quality for an NC-17 rating these days (I may take back that statement, as tame shit like Young Adam and Where the Truth Lies were both given that rating). But, really, I Am Curious (Yellow)'s frank sexuality is hardly as racy as an episode of HBO's Real Sex. I don't wish to insult I Am Curious (Yellow), though I wouldn't say I like the film. It will always remain a landmark of cinema, pushing the US further away from censorship (especially in the case of something as non-threatening as sexuality).

1 comment:

Eric Dienstfrey said...

I've been curious to check these out as well, but after your take on it, my guess is I'll just be watching it in fast-forward. I guess HBO's Real Sex has moved the bar in terms of shock value... the same is very true of the Makavejev.