Why I chose to write about this Criterion first off I have no idea. It’s not a great film, it’s not even all that memorable but when I thought about what to review, for some reason, this just seemed right.
Long before I started this site, I would peruse the Criterion site in disbelief at everything on it but I would always stop and look at this title more. The cover art jumped at me more than others and I had no idea what the films even were. Finally during one of the half off sales I scooped this up. That’s normally when I try to buy the box sets. When it arrived I wasn’t disappointed. The packaging is a couple standard DVD cases stuffed in a cardboard slip sleeve. The art and package design shines though. The cover featuring our main, mostly naked, attraction, Lena with a Swedish blue and yellow flag overlay is gorgeous. The back is a picture of Lena and her counterpart, Börje Ahlstedt, kneeling naked together. A great screen shot that encapsulates Yellow’s main theme.
This is yet another Criterion release of films that are not only controversial but also banned in numerous places around the world. Upon viewing it’s not hard to figure out why such a film would have been banned in the sixties. It is incredibly sexual and political while being an incredibly experimental film. I don’t think there is anyway the films we see today would be what they are without I Am Curious.
The plot as taken from the back cover: “It tells the story of Lena (Lena Nyman), a searching and rebellious young woman, and her personal quest to understand the social and political conditions in 1960’s Sweden, as well as her bold exploration of her own sexual identity.” The films do have a lot of sex, not pornographic in my opinion but the real meat of the films is when Lena takes here microphone to the streets in a documentary to get citizens opinions on everything from class to religion to, you guessed it, sex.
Yellow is presented in it’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a Swedish 1.0 Mono track that is up to Criterion’s always high standards. Blue has the same specs as Yellow except a slightly shorter run time (for the best.)
This is one of those cases where the title of the release is bigger than the actual film itself. The film had a big following in the late sixties because it was stopped by censors when it first reached the states so therefore more people sought it out. It was one of the first films to feature such a glimpse at strong sexuality and obviously an influence on everything that came afterwards. The censorship trial was one of the biggest deals at the time and that provoked people to seek out the film. But after the initial release it all but vanished.
If you haven’t heard of Yellow then you definitely haven’t heard of Blue either. You can still do some google search on it and you won’t find much. Released a year later as a companion to Yellow. It follows the same story as Yellow and mostly just fills in some gaps here and there. As in Yellow where you couldn’t tell what was documentary and what was film, Blue seems to make that line even harder to judge. They do accompany each other though, they each help make sense of the other and they are both worth your time if you are fan of how sex originated in film or Swedish cinema.
In terms of extras, you will find most of them on Yellow. A video introduction by director Vilgot Sjöman, Director’s Diary (selected scene audio commentary by Sjöman), Rosset/de Grazia: A Conversation featurette, The Battle For I Am Curious – Yellow featurette which takes you through the censorship trial, trial transcripts, trailer, color bars, insert with text essay by Gary Giddins. Blue only offers: Director’s Diary (selected scene audio commentary by Sjöman), deleted scene, excerpts from Self Portrait ’92, color bars, insert with text interview with Sjöman by John Lahr. The excerpts from Self Portait ’92 are the gem on this disc except that Criterion didn’t include the entire documentary about Sjöman so you only get to hear about his life during the late sixties which is a bit of a let down.
Obviously if I picked this as the first review on this site then I think it is definitely worth your time and money. You will not be watching this film over and over again but it does look nice on the DVD shelf and it does give you a true sense of just how inventive filmmaking got it’s start. If you are censorship buff then there isn’t a much better package you could look for than Criterion’s I Am Curious.