It Came From Kuchar

It Came From Kuchar

Directed by: Jennifer M. Kroot
Cast: George Kuchar, Mike Kuchar, John Waters
Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins
Rating: Unrated
Release Date: May 21, 2010 (limited)

PLOT: The life and work of prolific underground filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar is explored with interviews from the filmmakers as well as the people they influenced.

WHO’S IT FOR? Definitely people who love film, but also anyone who likes really quirky docs like Crumb or American Movie.

EXPECTATIONS: I’d never heard of the Kuchar Brothers, so I didn’t know what to expect.

SCORECARD (0-10)

ACTORS:

George Kuchar as himself:  The brother who makes the biggest impression, possibly because he’s the first brother we meet.  He teaches at The San Francisco Art Institute where he continues to make the bizarre films he’s known for.  Though the film makes the case that he was an experimental filmmaker along the lines of Warhol and Kenneth Anger, there’s a childishness to his work, at least that we see, that’s just as interesting.  He actually appears in a lot of his and his brother’s films as well.  Though he’s definitely an oddball, he seems aware that his films are low budget and somewhat schlocky at times. Then again, he pioneered techniques that would later be used in other, more big budget films.  Really a complex and interesting character.
Score: 8

Mike Kuchar as himself: George’s twin brother and fellow filmmaker, Mike, seems to be in his brother’s shadow. Though the brothers made films separately for most of their careers, they seem interchangeable within the context of this film, partially because they use the same actors and sets.  Really, it’s only the difference in facial hair that let me tell them apart.  While both men are interesting, George is definitely the star of this film.
Score: 6

John Waters as himself: I like John Waters’ films, but I love his interviews.  He has to be one of the most interesting people on the planet.  He speaks mainly as someone influenced by the Kuchars’, he credits them for the infamous poop-eating scene in Pink Flamingos.  Not sure I’m so thankful for that one.  But his impressions of the filmmakers and their work are really fascinating and clear-headed.  I pretty much respect anyone 100 times more if Waters vouches for them.
Score: 8

TALKING: Kroot does a great job of bringing together the interviews to create a really interesting storyline about the Kuchar’s life and work.  But she also got lucky that she got such great interview subjects.
Score: 7

SIGHTS: Most of the talking heads are pretty par for the course, which is a little disappointing because the Kuchars’ film visuals are all just really interesting.  I definitely want to see more of their work.
Score: 6

SOUNDS: Yeah, nothing special … so we’re just going to move on.
Score: 5

PLOT SPOILERS

BEST SCENE: I can’t think of one best moment, my favorite scenes involved snippets of a Kuchar film plus the background story from the brothers and some of the other people who were present or who saw it.  The back and forth between the creators and those who appreciate their work is priceless.

ENDING:  Kroot structures the film nicely, beginning it and ending it with George’s class working on a film and the final product.

QUESTIONS: How do these guys make money?  With the availability of less expensive film equipment and places to show films, like YouTube, have independent short films become more commodified and less creative?

REWATCHABILITY:  Yes, though first I’d like to see some of the films that George and Mike directed.

OVERALL

It Came From Kuchar is a loving fan letter to two very unique film pioneers.  I like to think I know a thing or two about film, I’ve seen some Stan Brakhage, some Kenneth Anger, but I’d never heard of the Kuchar brothers before this.  Now I’m fascinated.  What really makes the film work is that despite my fears that this would be a little Ed Wood-ish, a sort of tongue in cheek look at two guys whose ideas were bigger than their abilities, it’s really a charming film about two men who worked hard and created art using limited means.  By all accounts their films are funny, adventurous, romantic, the sorts of films that the staid world of serious experimental filmmaking doesn’t encourage.  But according to Kroot, their greatest strength was working within their limitations.  If you love film, you should really see this.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

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