For those familiar with the subjects of Jennifer Kroot's new documentary, It Came from Kuchar, the title will seem keenly apt. Others may wonder, "Just what is this 'Kuchar' of which she speaks? What comes from it? Should I be worried?"
Kuchar is the surname of filmmaking twins George and Mike, but also, as Kroot's movie winkingly suggests, a place: the brothers' common landscape of camped-up cinematic imagination. The realm of Kuchar, though unmistakable for its peculiar topography, isn't one you'll find on any map, because it has no boundaries. Like, really, none whatsoever. Frequenters include John Waters and Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith, if that gives you any idea. Its most basic characteristics may be attributed to a Bronx upbringing, in which the psychic vagaries of twinhood combined energetically with early exposure to Douglas Sirk melodramas and other soft-filtered Hollywood mythology. But lately it has been localized to the San Francisco Art Institute, where George has been warping young minds since 1971, one fully collaborative no-budget class-project movie at a time.
What comes from Kuchar is experimental filmmaking of a sort that instinctively disregards the expected tropes of experimental filmmaking. So no, there's not much in the way of chic, Warholian detachment or formally exploratory Brakhage-esque abstraction. Instead, the movies are sort of adorably deviant, innocently transgressive, and so effusively sincere that they encourage viewers to become racked with guffaws one moment and haltingly verklempt the next.
Randomly chosen titles from the Kuchar filmography evince keen aesthetic discernment (The Naked and the Nude), exquisite existential sensitivity (Orphans of the Cosmos), and practical world wisdom (The Devil's Cleavage), not to mention uncommon narrative precision (The Craven Sluck).
"It's hilarious to try to decide whether George's films are coming from a place of freedom and defiance or a place of shame," says the critic and cultural theorist B. Ruby Rich in Kroot's film. "I wouldn't know where to start."
It Came from Kuchar isn't a hagiography, but it is affectionate, and necessarily indulgent. When you get John Waters on the record saying that George Kuchar should be knighted, you really have hit the bullseye, and there's no need then to bend over backwards tracking down somebody somewhere who'll say that, no, George Kuchar probably shouldn't be knighted.
As to whether you should be worried, just understand that Kuchar is like a genie's lamp, or a Pandora's box, or a tube of Swedish reindeer meat or KY Jelly. Whatever comes from it can't ever be put back.