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Vilgot Sjoman, 81; Explored Taboos in 'I Am Curious' Films

A New York Times critic found the farce "as thin as a negligee." However, the reviewer helpfully told music aficionados to note the orgy sequence, during which members of the Royal Swedish Opera Company render the passionate peak moments from the "Rigoletto" quartet.

David Harald Vilgot Sjoman, the son of a construction worker, was born in Stockholm on Dec. 2, 1924. Among his early jobs was prison orderly.

He struggled as a playwright before turning a drama, about a troubled relationship between father and son, into his first book, "The Professor" (1948).

He wrote the screenplay for the 1952 film adaptation, renamed "Defiance" and directed by the venerable Gustaf Molander. A few years later, he won a scholarship to study filmmaking at the University of California at Los Angeles and wrote a book about the American film industry. This was one of 20 books he wrote during his career.

Mr. Sjoman directed a well-received television documentary about the making of Bergman's film "Winter Light" (1963) before riling viewers with "491" (1964), a grim study of juvenile delinquency.

Distribution of "491" was initially held up by the Swedish State Film Review Board, which found the scenes of bestiality and a homosexual seduction potentially injurious to younger audiences. The film also wound through U.S. courts for two years before it was allowed to be screened publicly.

His next venture, "My Sister, My Love" (1966), an 18th-century story of incest starring Bibi Andersson, was met with a critical yawn.

As his career waned, Mr. Sjoman found new audiences in old Soviet bloc countries. "They are curious to see what I have been doing," he said in 1994 before showing his films at a festival in Hungary. "If you mix sex and politics, it is really dynamite."

At the time of his death, Mr. Sjoman was a lead plaintiff in a legal challenge against Sweden's commercial television network, TV4. He charged that TV4 violated his artistic integrity when the network interrupted his films with commercial breaks.

Survivors include his wife, Lotta; and three children.


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