Kroot on the films of Mike Kuchar
By Michael Sragow
The Kuchar Brothers' docu-biographer, Jennifer M. Kroot, explains the films in his Artscape showcase
I asked Jennifer M. Kroot to assess the Mike Kuchar films at Artscape. Here's what she said:
"Medusa's Gaze" (2010)
"It's about Mike's favorite subject: a person dealing with the aftermath of a relationship. A performance artist actually reads poetry in it, but the movie itself is poetical. Mike creates a pretty magical vision, even if the guy is just sitting in his living room, whether with very theatrical, crazy costumes or the fabric of the set. The love affair gone wrong comes out in all these mythological guises, including Medusa's gaze. Mike has this thing about love affairs gone wrong. I always imagine him as a 12- or 13-year-old kid, watching all those Hollywood movies that made the perils of adulthood glamorous, and fantasizing about them. In some way, he's still that 12-year-old boy and he's still fantasizing about adulthood."
"Stranger in Apartment #9F" (1995)
"Ooooooo. Any fans of John Waters' early work will really like this. It's a very high-energy, crazy, campy scenario of relationships breaking up among the characters in an apartment building. Mike calls it one of his 'teleplays,' which are more like soap operas, and it has this very unusual female lead, one of his stars — Philly, who is actually from New York. She's a very large woman with crazy punk hair, and she's substantially older than the male lead. The young guy is almost appealing, but a little off. They have a really funny dynamic. And it's shot in this mid-1990s funky video that adds to the unsavory elements. You feel like you're stuck inside of this perverse relationship."
"The Craven Sluck" (1967)
"Fabulous. It's an early film, and it's got all of Mike's classic stars, including Floraine Connors, Bob Cowan and George Kuchar. Floraine is this unhappy housewife who seeks solace in the arms of a stranger and dreams about being a movie star. She runs off with George for a day, and George is very funny in this movie. But there's also so much more. In the end, she's fleeing UFOs and they come into the city and take her out. It starts as this romantic melodrama and ends up science fiction."
"It's homo-erotic, it has a sense of humor, and it's beautifully shot. Yes, it's another poetic grappling with the end of a relationship. But here he cuts in images of jungle animals in an avant-garde kind of way. It's loud, bright, and also intense, passionate."