Exploiting the in vogue marriage between “free love” and armchair Marxism, I Am Curious (Yellow) rebels in the name of commerce and controversy, posturing as much as its placard-carrying activists through a chaotic collage of impotent eroticism and interminable rhetoric. Beneath the maelstrom of its motley components, ranging from participatory documentary to absurdist comedy, Vilgot Sjöman and Lena Nyman (the lead) endeavor to interpret sexuality as a function of the class system, sapping it of its biological necessity to expose its contribution to the acquisition and preservation of power. Though the notion is ostensibly accurate, the application is vague, investing more time in vapid bombast than ideological follow-through, condemning Lena for the curiosity it swore to advocate.
Packaged as the auteur’s broken-hearted confession, the first layer of Curious’ fragmentary frame story beholds Nyman as a forlorn item of obsession, positioning its objectifying eye as a meta-commentary on directorial authority that cuts too close to the bone. Despite Lena’s presence, her engagement in Sjöman’s unreliable narrative is limited to glimpses of tousled hair and pouty glances, each pose fashioned to evoke naiveté and chastity. Abrupt shifts from the editing bay to improvised jokes and “man-on-the-street” dialogues flesh Nyman out beyond masturbatory reverie, but belie the enthusiasm of her insights, reducing the tenets of socialism to witless sloganeering and stolen Godardian typography.
The most incriminating aspect of Sjöman and Nyman’s collective agenda, however, lies in the banality of their interview questions, which transform bland sermonizing and 101-level political comprehension into implications of privilege and cowardice, criticisms which are leveled at everyone from anonymous pensioners to Martin Luther King Jr. Aside from revealing Sweden’s all-embracing apathy, the pair do little more than embody the pretenses of modern-day “slacktivism,” trading experience and passion for smug reassurance and the appropriated pleasures of Eastern philosophy.
This bevy of distractions, all furnished to lend merit to black-and-white thinking, treats sexuality as an afterthought, stranding its alleged selling point to the concluding (and most cynical) segment. Positioning an extramarital affair between Lena and a member of the royal family as proof of the intersection between sex and authority, Sjöman drags Nyman through a procession of humiliations, wielding abuse, shame, and scabies as physical manifestations of conservative indifference. If this provocation succeeds as rhetorical exercise, it fails completely as artistic expression, aligning the pleasures of the flesh with the politician instead of the populus, and limiting Lena’s libido to a cheap commodity and plot mechanism.
I Am Curious (Yellow) (Sandrews, 1967)
Written and Directed by Vilgot Sjöman
Photographed by Peter Wester