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Cult of the Kuchars: BAM/PFA Film Series

June 10, 2011 – June 25, 2011

BAM PFA Film Series

Throughout the month of June, we feature over fifty years of films and videos by twin brothers George and Mike Kuchar, brilliant proponents of no-budget moviemaking. George and Mike first picked up a camera in 1954, when they were just twelve years old, and have never put one down. Saturated in the Hollywood B movies screened at their neighborhood theater, they drew on the professionals for ideas about style and genre, developing an unerring eye for lighting, framing, and camera angles. Over the next ten years, their own 8mm amateur productions were loving parodies of horror, sci-fi, and melodrama, with friends and neighbors comprising the cast and their Bronx neighborhood, the set.

The Kuchars, with their unique blend of narrative and popular culture, soon became part of the burgeoning underground New York cinema scene of the 1960s. Their 16mm productions such as Hold Me While I’m Naked and Sins of the Fleshapoids inspired John Waters, while Andy Warhol preferred their 8mm productions. The Kuchars’ hilariously exaggerated plots may have shunned cause and effect, but they fully embraced an emotional register from desire to despair. Performance was primary, and friends were transformed into superstars to portray characters faced with the daily horrors of life, whether loneliness or errant robots.

Eventually George and Mike went their separate ways and began making individual works, with Mike in New York and George teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. When consumer video came on the market, they reveled in its possibilities and limitations. Their videowork ranges from Mike’s poetic portraits and feverish teleplays to George’s dark and humorous confessionals and student productions. Since 2007, they’ve been reunited, now on the West Coast.

We are delighted that Gene Youngblood will be in conversation with Mike and George Kuchar on Thursday, June 23 following a screening of their earliest films. Youngblood is an acclaimed theorist and scholar of alternative cinema, media arts, and politics, and author of the seminal Expanded Cinema (1970). He has studied and analyzed George Kuchar’s video diaries, on which he is preparing a book and website; on Saturday, June 25, he will introduce a program highlighting two of the diaries. Youngblood is also a pioneering voice in the media democracy movement, which he will discuss in a special lecture at the PFA Theater on Saturday, June 25. He has been teaching, writing, and curating since 1970 and was a member of the founding faculties of both the California Institute of the Arts (1970) and the Department of Moving Image Arts at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico (1988).

Kathy Geritz
Film Curator

Friday, June 10, 2011
7:00 p.m. Sins of the Fleshapoids
Mike Kuchar (U.S., 1965). Mike Kuchar in Person. Two robot “fleshapoids” ditch their human masters for their own carnal pleasures in Kuchar’s first 16mm epic, which kick-started the American underground and DIY cult cinema. “Really shows what an underground movie was…(Kuchar) was the first to do vulgarity in an almost opera style” (John Waters). With short Night of the Bomb. (74 mins)

Saturday, June 11, 2011
6:00 p.m. The Devil’s Cleavage
George Kuchar (U.S., 1973). George Kuchar in Person. A pent-up wife heads for Oklahoma for some heaving carnal misadventures in Kuchar’s high-cholesterol, anti-budget tribute to the classic American melodramas of Sirk, Preminger, and Minnelli. Features cameos by Art Spiegelman and Curt McDowell. (108 mins)

Saturday, June 11, 2011
8:35 p.m. George Kuchar Selects: Burlesk King
Mel Chionglo (Philippines, 1999). Young men and women earn their income—and their pleasures—as “adult entertainers” in this heaving Filipino melodrama. “This candy colored and body greased soap opera of male strippers, street hookers, family values, and a bit of urban crime makes one also want to hit the streets” (George Kuchar).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
7:00 p.m. Beyond Melodrama: Short Films by George and Mike Kuchar
George and Mike Kuchar in Person. This bawdy compilation of Kuchar tributes to Hollywood includes the classic Hold Me While I’m Naked, the lurid Pagan Rhapsody, the tasty The Secret of Wendel Samson, and more. (146 mins)

Sunday, June 19, 2011
4:30 p.m. Artist Friends: Videos by George and Mike Kuchar
George and Mike Kuchar in Person. Journeying from the Isis Oasis to New York City, the Kuchars depict friends and colleagues in this sampling of their video portraits, including the poet Marc Arthur in Opal Essence, punk rocker Kembra Pfahler in Blue Banshee, filmmakers David Sherman and Rebecca Barten in Oasis of the Pharaohs, and even their own mother in George’s classic confessional Cult of the Cubicles. (89 mins)

Sunday, June 19, 2011
6:50 p.m. Mike Kuchar Selects: Empty Canvas
Damiano Damiani (Italy, 1963). A tortured young painter falls into an affair with a radiant beauty, but must overcome not only his inability to love, but also his possessive mother, played by Bette Davis, in this Italian melodrama based on the novel by Alberto Moravia. With shorts Tryst and Dumped. (135 mins)

Thursday, June 23, 2011
7:00 p.m. 8mm Films by George and Mike Kuchar
George and Mike Kuchar in Conversation with Gene Youngblood. Hot from the heaving streets of their hometown, the luscious, lurid, and maniacal 8mm homemade epics of the teenage Kuchar brothers filtered Hollywood through a Bronx sieve, and inspired an American underground. Program includes The Naked and the Nude, Anita Needs Me, and more. (85 mins)

Saturday, June 25, 2011
3:30 p.m. “Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control”
Lecture by Gene Youngblood. Alternative media scholar (and Kuchar expert) Gene Youngblood discusses media democracy, activism, and the Internet.

Saturday, June 25, 2011
6:00 p.m. Weather Diary 1
Introduced by Gene Youngblood. George Kuchar in Person. One man and one dog spend a month in a trailer park/motel in Oklahoma, hoping for tornadoes, but taking more pleasure in the everyday. “The tape ultimately addresses all the big questions—death, origin and family, religion—as well as the small discomforts of the body, only to reverse their order of importance” (Framework). With short Award. (101 mins)

The Cult of the Kuchars is part of our ongoing series Afterimage: Filmmakers and Critics in Conversation, which is made possible by generous funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association® and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees. With thanks to George and Mike Kuchar, Gene Youngblood, Edith Kramer, Andrew Lampert and Amy Jo Dravitz at Anthology Film Archives, and Haden Guest at Harvard Film Archive for their assistance in making this series possible.

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