Friday, September 9, 2011

George Kuchar

Legendary underground filmmaker George Kuchar died on Tuesday in San Francisco.

Kuchar and his twin brother Mike made films together from childhood, using an eight-millimeter camera, props from their family’s New York apartment, and actors enlisted among friends and neighbors. Their entire career was spent making beautiful and heartfelt movies on a shoestring budget, inspiring hundreds of self taught film makers, not to mention the many thousands of amateur directors who post their work on Youtube, Vimeo and other sites.

The Kuchar brothers began receiving outside attention in the early ’60s with cheaply made and riotous films like “I Was a Teenage Rumpot.” Their film "Pussy on a Hot Tin Roof" caused a scandal at the New York Eight Millimeter Club, which brought the Kuchars to the attention of underground filmmaker Ken Jacob and Village Voice film critic Jonas Mekas. In 1964, at 22 years old, they had their first retrospective at the New Bowery Theater.

Kuchar had something of a popular breakthrough with his 1966 film short “Hold Me While I’m Naked,” a semi-autobiographical rumination on the frustrations of a maker of soft-core pornographic films. That film, along with a series of films he made on annual visits to a trailer park in Oklahoma during tornado season, became his best-known work. There is a terrific selection of Kuchar's work right here on UbuWeb.

In 1971 he was invited to teach filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he remained on the faculty until earlier this year. Teaching provided him with a steady income as well as hundreds of amateur actors — his students — willing to be cast in some of his movies. After a long career, during which he made hundreds of movies, Kuchar died in San Francisco at the age of 69.

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