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The Films of Mike & George Kuchar

Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool

Tuesday 3 September 2013 7.30pm The Cinema Museum

Born in The Bronx in 1942, twin brothers, Mike and George Kuchar started making 8mm micro-epics in their youth, creating a DIY cinematic style that celebrates the common man whilst oozing ‘kitchen sink’ Hollywood excess. Parting ways as co-directors in 1965, the brothers went on to hone their own unique styles. Little Joe have teamed up with Copenhagen-based writer Jack Stevenson to honour both brothers, presenting a selection of their works in 16mm, taken from Jack’s own personal collection.

(George Kuchar, 1966, 15mins, colour)
One of the best loved films of the 60s underground, a playful satire of motion picture making that leads to existential contemplations on the meaning of life. Here the fantasy of Hollywood glamour collides with the reality of loneliness in the Bronx and wicked turns of fate like when your leading lady quits the movie in the middle of shooting. This really happened so George just wrote it into the script. This was the first of his so-called “diarist dramas” where he himself is the main focal point, and together with Sins of the Fleshapoids help popularize Mike and George with a wider audience.

(Mike Kuchar, 1966, 30mins, colour)
A personal story of inner turmoil is told in the vocabulary of science fiction, expressionism, and pop-fantasy, entertaining yet sincere and soberly conceived. Mike’s achievement here is to integrate camp stylings in a serious and contemplative story, and in this sense it deviates from Sins of the Fleshapoids which plays out on a single narrative and aesthetic plain. Starring the artist Red Grooms, The Secret of Wendell Samson stands as Mike’s overlooked masterpiece, a work that entertains and invents and yet delves deeply into sombre emotional territory, testifying to the fact that underground cinema was personal cinema.

(Mike Kuchar, 1967, 23mins, B&W)
This film concerns itself with the sordid domestic routines of a typical Bronx married couple, Adel and her office worker husband, Brunswick. Adel, played with over-sexed verve by Floraine Connors, flees Brunswick (Bob Cowan) to seek escape in the arms of a secret lover, Morton, played by George Kuchar. To complicate matters, Morton is married, to a rotund, pill-popping frump called Florence, played by Bob in a cheap wig (that at one point falls into the toilet.) Yet all these complications of the flesh are suddenly rendered inconsequential by a squadron of attacking UFOs that vaporize the leading lady and bring the plot to an sudden halt. The skillful use of music in the Hollywood tradition makes the story come alive and seem almost believable… For many years Mike shied away from showing this film as its looseness and unhinged quality grated against his perfectionist tendencies, but the hilarity with which audiences reacted to it on a 1996 tour of the UK changed his opinion and the film as experienced something of a revival. It is precisely this casual quality which makes this gloriously tacky stew of cheap sci-fi and domestic melodrama come to life.

(George Kuchar, 1978, 13mins, colour)
A tribute to George's dog, Bocko, who appeared in so many of the brother’s films and was undoubtedly the best known dog in underground cinema. Scored with a lush selection of show tunes, pop songs and unclassifiable audio novelties that hints at George’s vast record collection, the film also doubles as a snapshot of his mojo in the late 70’s by which time he was comfortably settled in San Francisco. Brief guest appearance by Curt McDowell and others.

Tickets only £5 plus booking fee
Screening as part of the Scalarama film season


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