Art Doc of the Week | It Came from Kuchar

With the assorted schools of theory and blow-hard intellectual posturing so often draped around experimental art and artists, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the practitioners might spring from and be continually fed by places far less highbrow than the institutions (literal, metaphorical) that embrace and champion them. Even when the content is working class reality or dreams, the language used by critics speaking about the work is often a distancing tool that, at best, makes fetish of blue-collar / working-class life without really taking it seriously or acknowledging the complexities within it.

Mike Kuchar (left) and George. Photo by Patrick Siemer/Indie Pix

Mike Kuchar (left) and George. Photo by Patrick Siemer/Indie Pix

One of the pleasures of director Jennifer Kroot’s hugely enjoyable documentary It Came from Kuchar, about Bronx-raised Kuchar twins George and Mike, is how it lays bare their humble origins without fetish. In doing so, it not only grants complexity to its subjects (and countless others from the same or similar places as them), but also makes clear how the gritty realities of the mid-century, American urban working class shaped the brothers’ left-of-center world view that came to define the influential films they made as partners and individually.

Still from George Kuchar's film Hold Me While I'm Naked.

Still from George Kuchar’s film Hold Me While I’m Naked.

Kroot’s film, stitched from interviews with fans and students of the Kuchars, as well as with filmmakers (Guy Maddin, John Waters) whom they influenced is – more than anything – a celebration of artists making art for its and their own sake. Full of clips from the brothers’ solo and collaborative works that illustrate their idiosyncratic DIY aesthetic, It Came from Kuchar resonates on the strength of its elevation of queerness in all forms, in its broadest definitions. It’s a celebration of the outsider succeeding on his own terms, creating wholly new terms of existence. Kroot locates the queer quality in the Kuchars’ work in their early family life, in the creative types they drew and were drawn to, in their romances, and in their memberships in the early ‘60s underground of New York filmmaking and the brief utopia that was ‘70s San Francisco. It’s a story almost as eccentric as a Kuchar film.

The full doc is below.


Previously on Art Doc of the Week: