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George Kuchar, 1942-2011
by Aaron Zeghers // Published to Cineflyer // Sept 7, 2011
It is with great sadness that Cineflyer announces the passing of experimental filmmaker and artist George Kuchar. The 69-year-old film director lost a battle with cancer late last night in his home in San Francisco, where he continued to make films and taught at the San Francisco Art Institute. Kuchar exhibited his works in person in Winnipeg less than a year ago.
In his lifetime, Kuchar produced literally hundreds of “pictures” (as he joyously called them!) since he began making films with his twin brother Mike Kuchar in New York in the 1950s. His early works with his brother were pure, unbelievable camp, or experimental autobiographies like his revered Hold Me While I’m Naked. These early films influenced many filmmakers, including John Waters who said Kuchar’s films “gave me the self confidence to believe in my own tawdry vision.”
Kuchar later moved to San Francisco and met Curt McDowell, who became a lover and collaborator on films such as The Devil’s Cleavage and Thundercrack!. Later in his career, Kuchar would quickly latch on to consumer video technology and began making countless experimental video essays, including his infamous Weather Diaries among others. Kuchar was also renowned for his artwork, working alongside artists such as Art Spiegelman and Bill Griffith.
Kuchar visited Winnipeg last year for the 2010 WNDX Festival, less than a year before his death. While visiting in Winnipeg Kuchar introduced two screenings of his selected works and taught a master class, interacting and giving advice to local filmmakers. He also made a film about his experiences while in Winnipeg, called The Nutrient Express. One of Kuchar’s final films, The Nutrient Express will kick off the 2011 WNDX Festival.
More information about the life and death of George Kuchar can be found in a remembrance of George Kuchar on IndieWire by Bradford Nordeen, the curator of New York’s Dirty Looks queer screening series, which recently screened several of Kuchar’s films on his 69th birthday. Also check out a Bad Lit article on George Kuchar by Mike Everleth.
Below are some remembrances of George via the Winnipeg film community. We were blessed to be able to meet him less than a year ago:
“It was an incredible honour that we were able to host George at last year’s WNDX Festival. His larger-than-life character in his films is nothing like meeting him in person, his character is much richer and larger! One of my favourite memories, was having lunch with him and Guy and listening to them talk for 10 minutes about how their bowel movements have evolved in old age. Like his films, it seems he also finds himself in similar Kucharesque situations in real life wherever he goes. The day after he regaled his alien encounter story in great detail to us over breakfast, a strange man from a made-up-sounding small town from Saskatchewan showed up to WNDX asking us all very similar questions that George’s “alien” asked of him. We all felt the need to protect George from this new visitor and he seemed quite disturbed when we told him about this strange fellow. George was one of the most genuine people I have ever met, I feel humbled to have met him, shared many epic feasts and hilarious conversations. He will be missed, but he has left us so much work behind to remember him from.”
“George was so inspiring when he came to Winnipeg for last year’s wndx. Everywhere he went he had his camera at hand. During a studio visit with him he put it at the opposite end of the room and proceed yell so the camera could hear him. He said to me after watching my film ‘Have you ever heard of a cross dissolve? ‘ Since then I have made my best effort to use more cross dissolves.”
“I am in agreement with so many who feel that George is a unique artist, whose work has given and continues to give fuel to others. I saw Hold Me While I’m Naked as a teen, and loved that film, but it wasn’t until my friend Jon Davies introduced me to George’s Weather Diaries that I really became fascinated with his wholly unique approach to filmmaking, his exuberant, tragic, and truthful approach. Since then I’ve been a Kuchar-lover. Having had the opportunity to meet him and introduce his work was one of the greatest honours I can imagine, but conversing with him was absolutely incredible, exactly like walking around in one of his films, and I’m eternally grateful for that. As someone who spent so much time transforming people into the larger-than-life, he seemed to have no idea that he was/is larger-than-life for us also. I’m thrilled to hear that he completed one last weather diary this past summer, and I’m also thrilled at the thought of all of his other films and videos out there in the world, doing their sinful and enlightening work.”
“It’s a huge loss. We were really fortunate to have him here, for him to share his career with us. I got to be in the short film he made while he was here, and spend some time with him. He was a really funny guy, full of life, and had a great sense of humour. It’s just a really great loss for the international film community.”
“The only quote I have from him is food related. ‘Does anyone know where I can get some Lumpia rolls?’”