Poetry News

RIP George Kuchar: 1942-2011

By Harriet Staff

More sad news: We've just learned that George Kuchar, a favorite filmmaker among poets, passed away on September 6, after a long battle with cancer. "Just last week, on August 31, he turned 69," writes The Daily. Also:

"In the history of experimental film, George and Mike Kuchar stand out like a luridly lit, throbbing purple thumb," wrote Steve LaFreniere, introducing interviews with each of the brothers for Vice some time back. "Along with Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Ken Jacobs, et al., the twin Kuchars are among the most emblematic avant-garde filmmakers of their generation. Unlike some of their more educated fellows, their careers began in 1954 when they tore the wrapping paper off an 8-mm camera on their 12th birthday. They quickly taught themselves to use it and set about shooting brilliant, exotic, absurd features starring their friends, inspired by the Hollywood blockbusters and B movies they obsessed over at their local theaters in the Bronx. George and Mike were still in their teens when, years later, serendipity brought their work to the attention of the Manhattan underground-film world, where they were championed by none other than Jonas Mekas, said scene's godfather."

Electronic Arts Intermix writes that Kuchar's self-narrated video journals "...often resonate with an unexpected poetry. For example, Weather Diaries, in which Kuchar observes weather and food from dreary motel rooms in Oklahoma, reveals alienation and loneliness in the rural American landscape." "Scrutinizing his immediate environment, turning the camera on his own 'unclean obsessions and ugly, ugly dreams,' he uncovers the dramas of the everyday. Writing in Cinematograph, Steve Seid refers to Kuchar as 'the roving reporter of the Self, negotiating his social environment.'"

The San Francisco Bay Guardian
recommends some resources for the uninitiated:

[G]et a jump start on celebrating George's glorious legacy by first checking out Jennifer Kroot's 2000 documentary, It Came from Kuchar; a wide selection of Kuchar films can be found at Canyon Cinema and, for those of us without film projectors, on YouTube. (Also recommended: the brothers' Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool, with an intro by John Waters.)

We also like Charles Bernstein's roundup of readings and conversations with Kuchar, which can be found at PennSound.

Watch I, An Actress, a short film by Kuchar from 1977, below.

Originally Published: September 7th, 2011