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Next Screening: 7pm, Sunday, February 8, 2015. Mike Kuchar’s Soul Searchers, 2014 and other new pictures. Mike will be here to discuss.
Yes, George Kuchar (KOO-char) (1942–2011) was way out. How he got out there, we don’t know, but out there, he found the right channel, and it did us a lot of good. He wasn’t a scrubber or a detergent-buyer, he made lo-fi films that felt a little bit dirty. He began making them as a kid with the 8mm camera he and his twin brother, Mike, received for their 12th birthday, with props from their family’s apartment and actors enlisted among friends and neighbors in the Bronx, NY. Even after acceptance (or a kind of industry give-in), he stayed shoe-string. Some of his films are brilliant and unforgettable; others are almost unbelievably crude and incoherent and bad, but Kuchar’s critical reputation over the last three decades hasn’t hinged on a lone chapter. His reputation comes from prolificness and persistence of vision. More than thematic, the body of work is a grouping of concepts—afflicted libidos, special purpose Hollywood send-ups, and melodrama—all overlaid with access roads to his own subliminal freeway. You don’t have to admire his characters to admire Kuchar for the courage and love of form that allowed him to go for broke like this. It’s a “vision” that critics toe-tag as “campy,” i.e., “Although Kuchar was unknown to Susan Sontag at the time she wrote Notes on Camp (1964), she could have been referring to his no-budget pictures with her general description of camp as being ‘serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious. The essence of camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. Camp sees everything in quotation marks. The ultimate camp statement is it’s good because it’s awful.’” (From Ronald Bergan’s obituary of Kuchar in The Guardian)
So, *camp* then, but also something else. Kuchar held on to this “something else” tightly, by its little tentacle, never letting the Freudians coax it away or the pharmacists poison it out of him, or the talkers talk it away. Whatever it was, he held it dear, for he knew that when you lost it you went over by that much more to the others. In an interview from 2009, he got as close as ever to spelling out his motives when he said, “Makin’ pictures, see, sometimes you see a very beautiful person. And the first thing that comes to my mind is, I want to make a movie of that person. ‘Cause I like puttin’ gauzes—ah, cheap, black cloth on the lens with a rubber band—and creating these, what look like 1940s movies, or movies of a beautiful Hollywood style, and blowing these people up bigger than life and making them into gods and goddesses. And I think in the movies that’s a wonderful way of pushing them on the public, and infusing the public with great objects of desire, and dreams, and things of great beauty… living human beings of beauty.”
Totaled, his efforts yielded over 200 ruinously contaminated films! Yale Union will show them until we’ve shown them all, or until we cerebral hemorrhage, or until Oregon slides into the Pacific Ocean. We think it will take seven years, but we can’t be sure. Honestly, we couldn’t think of another way to accommodate his volume; it’s not perfect, but neither is the all-at-once way it’s usually done. It’s a monstrous idea, but not without a measure of truth and joy. So let us try to grapple with it.