The Age of Experimentation: I Am Curious (Yellow) and Belle de Jour

If the sixties stood for anything, it was experimentation. From psychedelic to new wave, art underwent a massive change in the sixties. These aged masterpieces continue to bedazzle us even today. And more than Hollywood, it was the European film market that offered a lot of these experimental films.

In this post, I’m gonna discuss Luis Bunuel’s acclaimed Belle de Jour and Vilgot Sjoman’s I Am Curious (Yellow). Both were controversial when they released due to the gratuitous nudity and storyline. Yet, both films were well-received by film goers, from the sixties to today.

Still from I Am Curious (Blue)
Still from I Am Curious (Blue)

Before we go on, I must tell you that I watched an edited version of these movies, so I don’t exactly know how much of skin was shown. But, the internet tells me that it was a lot, considering it was the sixties and people were just getting adjusted to nudity in mainstream Hollywood.

I Am Curious is a set of two Swedish movies, each differentiated by a colour – Yellow and Blue – the colours of Sweden’s flag. The film itself plays like an early form of mockumentary. It revolves about an actress and activist, Lena (played by Lena Nyman) who is having an affair with the director Vilgot (played by director Vilgot Sjoman). Lena is headstrong. She’s an activist who goes around interviewing people on human rights and nonviolence.

The film also includes footage of an interview with Martin Luther King. I Am Curious (Yellow) is set in a film production where Lena becomes attracted to another actor Borje (played by Borje Ahlstedt). It’s a film within a film.

When I Am Curious (Yellow) released, many Christians referred to it as a “dirty film”. Of course, nudity was taboo back then. I still remember Anne Bancroft’s interview where she mentioned that her Church was upset upon the release of The Graduate.

Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour
Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour

In Belle De Jour, Catherine Deneuve plays a bored wife with sexually illicit daydreams, who spends her afternoons as a prostitute. The character wanted something daring and found it in wild sex with strange men, and ultimately faced the dangers of it.

But, that’s not what these movies were about. These were metaphors of empowerment. Having been in the kitchen all their lives, the sixties encouraged women to get out and find a life of their own. Women found meaning and a new direction to lead their lives. The sixties were the age of liberation.

New paths were made. New jobs were created. Old regimes were questioned. It was the dawn of an era that impacted lives for decades, and continues to do so.