Sunday, September 30, 2012

George and Mike Kuchar Violated My Eyes, But In a Good Way: "It Came from Kuchar" (2010)



I don't know why, but I love the weird stuff. I think underground films are wonderful, and back when I wanted to be a film maker (in high school and college), I studied John Waters, not Steven Spielberg. I had never heard of the twin film making brothers George and Mike Kuchar back then, but if I had, and had been exposed to their crazy films, I may be in San Francisco right now, shooting my next sci-fi/porn epic, instead of sitting in front of an open window, cursing the noisy Minot, North Dakota traffic, and writing this film review.

Like me, you may never have heard of the Kuchar brothers, either, but a lot of film makers have- and they are interviewed here. Names like Christopher Coppola, Atom Egoyan, Wayne Wang, Guy Maddin, John Waters, and many more are trotted out to sing the praises of two guys slightly older than my dad who started in the underground world shooting on eight millimeter cameras. The boys were born in the Bronx, and started shooting their own films based on big Hollywood movies their doting mother would take them to see. George, the more prolific of the two, ended up in San Francisco at the Art Institute there, helping students shoot their projects while doing his own work as well. Many of the documentary's subjects have no idea how many credits George has, a quick check of IMDB lists over 200 directing credits alone. Most of his work involves crazed science fiction short films, with new forays into personal video making along the lines of today's video blogs (although George was doing this much earlier).

Brother Mike is not as productive, but he is more spiritual. While the brothers often worked together, Mike would branch out on his own, doing more psychologically intense work, thanks to a trip to Nepal where he mistakenly took mind altering drugs and also took a new look at the world. Mike does very surreal, introspective work, also in the short film format.

Why does director Jennifer M. Kroot want us to know about these two men? For one thing, any person who influenced the feces scenes in Waters' "Pink Flamingos" deserves some mention, but also, at almost seventy years of age, these guys are still working! Not only are they still working, they are still sticking with what they know, producing (on the surface) nutty Ed Wood-type awfulness, but with a certain undercurrent that says something else. The Kuchars put some levity and fun into the mid-1960's underground film movement, stagnant with the self-importance of Stan Brakhage or Andy Warhol.

The titles to some of their work alone are fun: the infamous porno "Thundercrack," their best know work "Sins of the Fleshapoids," and George's latest creation at the institute (as of this documentary's filming) "The Fury of Frau Frankenstein." Warhol had his Superstars, and the Kuchars have their own bullpen of actors, including seventy year old Linda Martinez, who thinks nothing of exposing her genitalia on film.

Kroot does an excellent job covering the brothers, although the focus seems to be more on George. George's interactions with friend Buck Henry and his own brother are hilarious, one interviewee brings up the fact that both brothers are insane, "but in a good way." Having two younger identical twin brothers, I immediately recognized George and Mike's interactions, finishing each other's sentences, and telling a story about a pet parakeet from different points of view, yet still experiencing the same emotions and feelings.

One drawback to the film is the reluctance on both Kroot and the Kuchars' part in discussing their sexuality. While I normally don't care whether a film maker is gay or not, homosexual imagery is such a focus in their work, yet the subject is broached and danced around repeatedly.

I have done some research, and only a few Kuchar projects are available on DVD. If you like Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey, or any other underground film maker, you probably already know about the Kuchars. But when it comes to either sitting through "The Devil's Cleavage" or the new "Transformers" flick, sign me up for the cleavage! (* * * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: It Came From Kuchar