Tricky Film: The Critical and Legal Reception of <i>I Am Curious (Yellow)</i> in America

  • Ulf Jonas Björk Indiana University-Indianapolis


This study examines the reception of the Swedish film I am Curious (Yellow) in America. As a mixture of political satire and a chronicle of a sexual affair, with fictional and documentary material, the film was referred to by a U.S. government official as “the most explicit movie ever imported” when it arrived in America in 1968 and was released only after a federal appeals court reversed a lower-court verdict that had found it legally obscene. Although cleared for importation, I am Curious (Yellow) continued to be dogged by whether its sex scenes violated local and state obscenity laws. While the legal actions at times impeded distribution of the film, they also generated publicity for it, eventually making it one of the most profitable foreign-language films in U.S. motionpicture history. This paper discusses several court cases where the film’s social value—or lack thereof—was the factor deciding whether it could be shown, and it also looks at critical reaction to the film. Noting that all popular-culture products are products of the societies they spring from, the paper also looks at how the film was received in Sweden.