I really like the Kuchar Brothers, George and Mike, who I think are the wittiest and most palatable of the underground filmmakers from the heyday of 8/16mm filmmaking in the 1960s. Unlike the dreadfully boring exercises of the structuralists like Michael Snow and Hollis Frampton, the baffling images of experimental filmmakers like Andy Warhol or Stan Brakhage, or even the surreal and indecipherable films of directors like Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger, the Kuchar Brothers' films are fun, crazy, and accessible. Most importantly, they don't feel like a school lesson.
The above clip is the opening to one of my favorite, and one of the best loved, Kuchar Bros film, SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS. As you can see, their style is a meshing of a lot of diverse instincts; utilizing home-movie techniques and film stock, a satirical use of high-camp, a handful of bizarre science fiction musings and a very unhealthy dash of good old fashioned American sleaze, their films are great because they exist in a space of free-spirited moviemaking, wholly outside of the Hollywood system but emulating the Hollywood film through excess.
Although their films are notoriously hard to find and only SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS is available on DVD in this country, they have managed to influence Andy Warhol, John Waters, David Lynch, Buck Henry, Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin and Wayne Wang. Defining a style of pop-camp-trash, their films inspire as much as they amuse.
Well, there's a new documentary about the brothers and their film, and it turns out they're more interesting than I thought. The film is a detailed and humorous portrait of the Kuchar Brothers life and work, and is filled with great interviews and stories about the 1960s and filmmaking in the shadows of American culture.
A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes that the film gives "a flavor of the brothers’ blend of camp, melodrama, horror, psychological exploration and sexual provocation" and that the film is "a valuable and intelligent introduction and tribute to their anarchic, uncompromising and absolutely peculiar genius."
On Sunday June 20 and Wednesday June 23, we're showing the new documentary IT CAME FROM KUCHAR, and anyone interested in learning about avant-garde, underground cinema must attend.