George Kuchar, the Bronx-born filmmaker whose irreverent, campy, passionate, resourceful shorts and experimental films—including classics pastiches made while he was still a teenager, with his brother Mike—inspired generations of underground filmmakers, died on Tuesday night; he was 69.
The Kuchars “passed from intentionally tasteless and tacky saboteurs of Hollywood melodrama, horror, and exotica to charter members in cinema’s bargain basement hall of fame,” the L’s Michael Rowin wrote last spring, reviewing the documentary portrait It Came from Kuchar:
[T]heir story is that of awkward, joined-at-the-hip homosexual film geeks armed with 8mm cameras, working-class Bronx tenement backdrops, “star” casts of equally weird friends and neighbors, a complete disregard for taboos, and some of the best film titles in the history of cinema—The Naked and the Nude, I Was a Teenage Rumpot, Lust for Ecstacy—who with their non-stop output somehow joined the ranks of 50s and 60s avant-garde artistes like mythic visionary Stan Brakhage and scenester Andy Warhol. Whatever the Kuchars lacked in production values they made up for in pure enthusiasm, their films’ unprecedented irony the result of an enormous disparity between aspiration and means, even as they also blurred the boundary between savant-like earnestness and knowing irreverence.
The Kuchar brothers began making films separately in the mid-60s; George was known for more extroverted and confessional work, perhaps most notably 1966’s Hold Me While I’m Naked; he settled in San Francisco and taught for several decades at the San Francisco Art Institute, often collaborating with his students on new work.
A number of George Kuchar’s films, from 1965’s Corruption of the Damned to 1986’s Weather Diary 1, are available to view on UbuWeb.