It Came From Kuchar
It Came from Kuchar
Directed by Jennifer M. Kroot
A nurse secretly distributes homemade vomit. A woman tries to seduce a gay man. A gorilla falls in love with a man who inexplicably wears a dress. Such are the films made by the Kuchar brothers, and there are over two hundred more. For the uninitiated: George and Mike Kuchar are cripplingly brilliant (or dangerously insane) human beings who, armed with not more than a love of 1950s melodrama, the desire to tell stories, and their aunt’s Super 8 camera, became grandmasters of the underground film world who have taught and inspired generations of filmmakers. This film, made by former Kuchar student Jennifer M. Kroot, is a kaleidoscopic look inside the bewildering and fantastic world of the Kuchars.
Unless you have a burning love for very experimental film, you’ve probably never heard of the Kuchar brothers. Don’t feel bad – the vast majority of the movie-going public haven’t heard of the Kuchars. Rather helpfully, Kroot enlists a cadre of cinema and culture personalities to help introduce the brothers, including cult filmmaker John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Cry-Baby), scholar/critic/queer theorists B. Ruby Rich, director Wayne Wang (The Princess of Nebraska, The Joy Luck Club), experimental filmmaker Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg), cartoonist Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead), actor Buck Henry (Saturday Night Live), and award-winning director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Chloe). Clearly, the Kuchars have clout.
Like most good documentaries, Kroot lets her subjects speak for themselves – and the Kuchars have a lot to say about everything, and they usually do this through film. One of their friends notes that, whilst experimental film compatriot Andy Warhol’s films were about nothing, the Kuchar’s films were about everything. Clips from the brothers’ films prove this; in fact, since their films are so difficult to find, this film may be the best place to see these clips. Another treat this documentary offers is footage of George Kuchar in action, teaching a class at the San Francisco Art Institute; incidentally, George teaches film by directing a film and using his students as actors and crew. Of course, the Kuchar brothers also speak directly to the camera. George tends to offer wry, irreverent observations (“She [his mother] would hit him [his father] with a carton of eggs once in a while. He would disappear for quite long periods of time. It was a marriage. What more can you say?”), whilst Mike tends to ruminate out loud over the theoretical implications of film (“It’s a way of making love to someone you can’t have.”).
It is clear, through all of these interviews, film clips, and unguarded moments, that the Kuchar brother’s love of filmmaking is infectious; anybody who has ever picked up a camera will appreciate and admire the love that the Kuchars bring to their work, and Kroot’s film makes it clear that the Kuchar’s students share this passion.