(2009) director Jennifer Kroot
Frankly, I didn’t know much about the Kuchar brothers, George and Mike, before watching this documentary about them. I knew of them, somewhat, that they were part of the underground film scene that burgeoned in New York in the 1950’s-1970’s and that they were an influence on John Waters among other people. I still have not seen any of their films, only the clips in here.
They are interesting, and it’s easy to see some John Waters in their work. The brothers are twins, raised in the Bronx, trained as commercial artists in high school, but never attended anything like a film school. Their films, which they worked together on (though each brother’s films are directed uniquely individually), sometimes starring in, started on 8mm and evolved from there. They were very influenced by the Hollywood films of their childhood, the 1940’s-1950’s, but their aesthetic is very DIY, lowbrow, cartoonish and comedic. They are a stark contrast to the other film-makers of the underground film scene like Andy Warhol and Stan Brakhage. And they’ve stayed an underground thing all their lives.
In fact, they live and work locally, George in particular. He teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute. In fact, he’s taught there since the 1970’s. The film shows him teaching a class to make a strange sort of Ed Wood-like science fiction film, and the class seems to love it.
Along with the brothers themselves, recollecting their lives, appear Waters, Buck Henry, B. Ruby Rich, Bill Griffith and Atom Egoyan recollecting their films and their influence. Both of them are talented artists, particularly George, whose paintings and cartoons are really interesting and cool. It seems that Mike has become a bit of an odd job after a trip to Katmandu.
While the film doesn’t frame their work from a Queer Theory perspective, it seems an interesting way to consider their films. The film is a little coy in referencing their orientation (they are both gay) and doesn’t discuss that aspect of their lives until about halfway through. I’m not saying that it’s inherently germane to their work or to watching or enjoying their work, but it struck me as odd, the way this was unveiled. Maybe there is an assumption that one already knows that fact about them?
Anyhow, the film was interesting, a good documentary. And I have my appetite whetted now to watch the only one of their films that Netflix has on hand, Sins of the Fleshapoids (1965), sometime in the near future.