Murky, dirty, improvised history

It Came From Kuchar

on April 09, 2010 by Matthew Nestel
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Robots engaged in hand-to-hand electric sex, flagellation and burp phone chats, murder by toilet plunger and sexagenarian crotch close-ups are some of gallows fodder fitting under marquee-challenged titles like: Thundercrack!, I Was a Teenage Rumpot and The Devil’s Cleavage. The documentary It Came From Kuchar aims to school the masses on a dirty little cinema secret. Throughout the ’60s, Brothers Kuchar-stamped flicks were reliably homespun, made of tricky terror and fidelity stock, smooshed together like meatballs and tossed at a Nativity scene. It Came From Kuchar gets down with the twin brother braintrust and showcases them as innocent deviants. Kuchar disciples will swarm after selling-out small movie houses to enjoy the loaded array of titillating clips and heavyweight filmmakers dishing catnip praise.

Mike and George Kuchar became the “Mozarts of 8-millimeter cinema” by old school word of mouth. Fringe art fags during the ’60s took sojourns from the Warhol syndicate to catch a sardonic whiff of these two crazy creators from the Boogie-Down-Bronx who were shooting some of the most twisted dramas ever laid down on celluloid. Filmmakers Wayne Wang and bad boy John Waters fawn with esteem. Waters suggests the brothers deserve knighthood.

Despite a Roman Catholic upbringing, the brothers had no formal film training, just an avid film enthusiasm and some art classes under their belts. The Kuchars built a strange signature style that was as frenetically charged as it was sexually perverse. In this documentary, shot straight by Jennifer M. Kroot, the wacky and tragic elements are given ample play. In fact, Kroot managed to harness a wild canon of work that claims so many boobie traps (literally) it’s startling how grounded the doc is. The Kuchars are leaving one mean monster to decode. Luckily, Kroot interviews Kuchar deckhands, amateurs given big screen treatment and labeled “Kuchar Stars.” She pairs choice scenes with where-are-they-now reveals. All of it evidences the brothers’ true cut-and-paste approach to production. The Kuchars cut deals to get pictures made. Taping a kid’s birthday party could be paid in trade—meaning casting the host’s mom and using the house as a set. George permits Kroot’s cameras onto his sets, each of which recall a cross between a school play production and the traveling oddity tours from the radio days.

An aging George faintly seems to identify the dizzying effect he’s had on his counterparts and the medium he loves. He teaches at San Francisco Art Institute and has protégés applying his hi-concept, lo-fi approach worldwide. Mike, who ran off to Nepal and came back tripped out on acid (albeit accidentally), is mending his proclivities as they’ve been played out in past films. He conjures an unfiltered truth of what film means to him: “It’s a way of making somebody love you that you can’t have. In reality you can’t have and wouldn’t dare... But you can make love to them with the camera. And you own them, actually.”

While in the throws of award show season and adhering to the nobody-remembers-second-place credo, the valued seem to be the ones going home with a statuette. Mike and George Kuchar are true auteurs seeding ideas without the luxuries funding or establishment. Statue-less, they buy their cameras at pharmacies, design flying saucers by tinkering flashlights and shoot anything goes ad hoc. They never asked for anything other than an audience. Thirty years later they have more than enough heads to go around and deserve a permanent spot in the same pantheon as Hollywood masters.

Distributor: IndiePix
Director: Jennifer M. Kroot
Producer: Holly Million and Jennifer M. Kroot
Genre: Documentary
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 86 mins.
Release date: April 9 NY

Tags: documentary, filmmaking, B-movies, 8mm, directing, George Kuchar, Mike Kuchar
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