George Kuchar shorts (1960-1978)

I, An Actress (1977)
“This film gives an insight into my directing techniques while under pressure.”
A good way to start things off… George directs a screen test for a young actress and ends up in front of the camera flamboyantly showing her how he wants the scene performed. The funniest film of the evening, and it wasn’t even “written” to be funny. J. Steffen says it “becomes a commentary on his own camp persona and on the eternal problem of directing actors with wills and personalities of their own.”

Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966)
The famous one! Kuchar plays a film director whose actress quits mid-shoot out of disinterest and because George has asked her to take her clothes off. He calls around but finds nobody else, and falls into a crisis. Hilarious little movie. Played very straight, as George claims he was actually quite depressed. I wouldn’t say that the editing reminded me of Breathless and Parajanov, but Steffen did say that.

I Was a Teenage Rumpot (1960)
The young Kuchar brothers discovered three people who look completely unlike movie stars and began filmmaking careers in order to get these people onscreen. This sums up what makes Kuchar interesting and worth watching, and where all the John Waters comparisons come from. A glorious no-budget fake melodrama starring the ‘differently-shaped’ Arline, Edie and Harry.

Sylvia’s Promise (1962)
Sylvia promises that if Mike will only settle down and marry her, she’ll lose weight. The joke ending is that eight years later, they’re married and she’s lost three pounds.

Anita Needs Me (1963)
I’m not doing a good job describing these movies, and I don’t even remember which one this is because I’ve waited too long after the screening to write about ’em (ten days is too long?!?), but they’re totally fun to watch, short enough to never outstay their welcome, and different enough from each other to make seeing a bunch in a row worthwhile. It was a hoot of a screening, and I’d watch any one of ’em again.

Eclipse of the Sun Virgin (1967)
GK: “Painstakingly filmed and edited, it will be painful to watch, too.” This was my favorite of the bunch, just awesome. Unbelievably, I couldn’t remember what to say about it so I just watched it again on Ubu web… and I still don’t know what to say about it! Um, something about piano playing and humiliation and the color red? It’s poetry, and it is awesome.

Knocturne (1968)
Starring Joyce Wieland, Michael Snow’s wife. I think this one was less narrative than the others, and I’ll leave it at that.

The Mongreloid (1978)
George with a late-70’s mustache reminiscing on the time he shared with his dog Bocko. Brief sound dropouts were replaced in post-production with tiny bursts of music, keeping a playful edge on this otherwise diary-like personal short.

This was a very good program, and Kuchar is a good speaker, full of stories about an entire adult life spent making cool underground films, and the people he’s known (John Waters, Michael Snow, Ken Jacobs, Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas). Wish I could’ve made it to the other nights of screenings, featuring his storm-chasing films and diary videos. Wait, this just in:

Wild Night In El Reno (1977)
As watched on Ubu web. 6 minutes long, storm over a motel builds into the night. Probably some nice footage, but the online video flattens it out and uglies it up, and my sound dropped out after a minute. No substitute for the wonderful Eyedrum screening.

GK: “At the age of 12 I made a transvestite movie on the roof and was brutally beaten by my mother for having disgraced her and also for soiling her nightgown. She didn’t realize how hard it is for a 12-year-old director to get real girls in his movies.”

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