Legendary underground filmmaker George Kuchar died of prostate cancer on Tuesday. He was 69.
George was born one hour after his twin brother Mike in Manhattan NY in 1942, and he grew up in the Bronx. When he was 12, inspired by their father’s prolific porno collection, George and his twin brother Mike made their first film. Shot on 8mm with a camera they got for their birthday, the twins fell in love with filmmaking. George and Mike worked together through the 60’s (and some beyond) making 15 films together, but it all started as a tween with a camera.
George would eventually grow up, go to School of Industrial Art (now the High School of Art and Design), and after a stint as a commercial artist, turn back to filmmaking. Glowingly positive reviews of his early films, appearing in the Village Voice and the New York Herald Tribune made filmmaking a viable job option. In 1966 he directed Hold Me While I’m Naked, a semi-autobiographical breakthrough that remains among his best-known work, and with growing acclaim, he was offered a professor job at San Francisco Art Institute in 1971, where he taught through 2010. In addition to being a steady source of income, Kuchar’s professorship brought him close to hundreds of young artists and filmmakers who were ready to shoot and star in the plethora of low/no-budget movies he spearheaded. Working in every medium imaginable from 8mm and 16mm film to VHS to digital video, Kuchar was prolific, making over 200 works of varying lengths.
Although he was a contemporary of some of the most important avant garde filmmakers, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Kenneth Anger, he seldom if ever used the term avant garde, and preferred to talk about how he’d made his films with no budget than how they stacked into the art world. Kuchar’s work inspired filmmakers like David Lynch and John Waters, as well as generations of “avant-garde” filmmakers and video artists. His work is archived at VDB in Chicago, and a couple of his works (Hold Me While I’m Naked and The Curse of the Kurva) are a part of the Ruben Bentson Film/Video collection. 10 of his works are available on ubuweb, to wet your appetite. Hold Me While I’m Naked was shown as a part of a huge avant garde film retrospective in 2005, and a documentary on the Kuchar brothers, It Came from Kuchar, played in february 2010.
Great interview with George Kuchar, March 2009: