George and Mike Kuchar
By: Mimi Lipson | Categories: HiLo Heroes

As kids, twin brothers GEORGE and MIKE KUCHAR (born 1943), armed with an 8mm camera, their mother’s make-up, and a bunch of hammy friends, set themselves up as the Cecil B. DeMilles of their Bronx neighborhood. They had a flair. They might have become admen, or industrial filmmakers, or television journeymen of the Quinn Martin school. Instead, as teenagers, they wandered into the underground film scene and were taken up by Ken Jacobs and Jonas Mekas. They found safe harbor within the avant-garde, and their work is uniquely the product of this serendipity. Early films like Mike’s Sins of the Fleshapoids (1965) suggest a missing link between Jack Smith and Douglas Sirk. George’s 1966 masterpiece, Hold Me While I’m Naked, is both Exhibit A and a meditation on the frisson created when trash meets art. Since 1971, George has been teaching directing workshops at the San Francisco Art Institute, collaborating with his students on lurid psychodramas with $200 budgets. Watch him at work in I, An Actress (1977), systematically disrupting the actress’s instincts with absurdist stage business until her histrionic line readings are transformed into abstract formal elements. In the hundreds of films and videos they’ve made, together and separately, the Kuchar brothers have never sacrificed their art to the gods of Progress and Money; or, as George puts it, “I tend to think big and then just shoot what’s lying around to make the vision take shape.”

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Raymond Williams.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).

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Mimi Lipson writes and makes stained glass. Her chapbook Food & Beverage is available at all-seeingeye.blogspot.com.