“It Came from Kuchar”–the documentary

“It Came From Kuchar”

The Documentary

Amos Lassen

“IT CAME FROM KUCHAR” is the definitive, feature documentary about the legendary, underground filmmaking twins, George and Mike who have inspired two generations of filmmakers, actors, musicians, and artists with their zany, “no budget” films and with their uniquely enchanting spirits. They grew up in the Bronx in the 1950’s making “no-budget” film with their aunt’s 8mm, home-movie camera. The New York underground film scene embraced them as the “8mm Mozarts” and their early films deeply inspired many filmmakers, including John Waters, Buck Henry, Atom Egoyan, Todd Haynes, Cory McAbee and Wayne Wang. “IT CAME FROM KUCHAR” includes numerous clips from the Kuchar brother’s early films including “HOLD ME WHILE I’M NAKED”, “SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS”, and many others. It also features interviews of many of the filmmakers, artists and writers who’ve been inspired by the Kuchars. The film also features interviews of key “actors” from the Kuchars’ films, ranging from the earliest days in the Bronx through today. For close to forty years George has taught film production at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). His class is unbelievable in a circus-like, Fellini-esque style that generates tremendous enthusiasm from his students. “IT CAME FROM KUCHAR” follows his latest class production as they make an over-the-top “monster picture”.

Don’t feel bad if you’re never heard of the Kuchar brothers. After all, unless you were a regular attendee of underground cinema during the 1960s, you are not likely to be familiar such titles as “The Naked and the Nude,” “I Was a Teenage Rumpot,” “Sins of the Fleshapoids,” “The Craven Sluck” and many, many others.

The brothers were motivated by a passion for filmmaking rather than a desire for fame or riches, they were content to work on the fringes. Their films attracted many devoted fans, some of whom went on to become filmmakers themselves. Among those interviewed here are John Waters (“They should be knighted,” he declares, before describing how the infamous turd-eating scene in “Pink Flamingos” was directly inspired by a similar moment in a Kuchar film), Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin and Wayne Wang.

Featured prominently is friend and fan Buck Henry, whose deadpan comments about films like “Thundercrack” — “It certainly lives up to its title” — are some of the doc’s most amusing moments. If you have never seen “Thundercrack”, then you must. It is one of my all time favorite films and it certainly wins every award for bad taste.

Jennifer M. Kroot directed and she is a former student of George’s (he eventually went on to teach at the San Francisco Art Institute), so this is a portrait with affection instead of a critical look at the brothers’ work.

There are generous clips of the films, enough to give a flavor of the brothers’ blend of camp, melodrama, horror, psychological exploration and sexual provocation. (And also at least a superficial sense of the differences between them.) This sampling is fleshed out by interviews with George and Mike Kuchar themselves, and also with the usual talking-head parade of friends, colleagues, critics and students.

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