This week, I watched a wonderful documentary directed by Jennifer Kroot called “It Came From Kuchar,” which chronicles the life and work of famous Underground film artists George and Mike Kuchar. George Kuchar, the more famous of the duo, sadly died on September 6th of this year, having created over 200 films and having taught and inspired four generations of filmmakers at the San Francisco Art Institute.
The Kuchar brothers began making their films on their aunt’s 8mm camera. After this initial period of creation, they notably continued creating films with low-budget, commercial equipment. What I find amazing about their films is the artful use of low-fi techniques to talk about hi-fi concepts. Most mainstream filmmakers use high-tech equipment to portray life in a “realistic” way. The Kuchar brothers’ cinematography is, in contrast, absolutely absurd. Reflecting on the 1950’s melodramas they were exposed to as youths, they used jump cuts, campy costuming, monstrous makeup designs, hyperbolic sex scenes and feces (on occasion) to communicate their concepts and queer viewpoint. For a more familiar reference point, John Waters, who appears in the documentary, uses similar techniques.
After watching the documentary, I was able to find time to watch one of their most famous short films, “Hold Me While I’m Naked,” and I think it’s fantastic. The images, sound and acting techniques work symbiotically to tell an avant-garde, non-narrative tale. In other words, the dramaturgy adheres to the world of the film, which reveals the queer, self-conscious director’s struggle to exist and make art. The documentary can be played instantly on Netflix and “Hold Me While Im Naked” is on youtube along with clips of several of their other films!