FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS; Exploring Some Brief but Extraordinary Views of the Ordinary World
Films by George and Mike Kuchar
You've got to admire the crazy gumption of moviemaking maniacs who will let nothing stop them from loading a camera, pointing it and letting it rip. In the 1950's and 60's, when the twin filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar began creating zany no-budget B-movie mini-epics, it wasn't as easy to play Cecil B. De Mille (or Douglas Sirk, one of their idols) as it is in today's digital climate. All four of the newly restored short films to be shown tonight at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the avant-garde arm of the New York Film Festival are 8-millimeter silent movies made from 1959 to 1963. Here the word silent applies only to the dialogue, which is supplied by titles.
The movies have frantically energetic found soundtracks that splice together obscure period rock 'n' roll with orchestral kitsch to evoke the flickering B-movie melodramas that they spoofed. The music is matched by strenuous amateur acting that makes Warhol's exhibitionists look like graduates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
The Kuchar brothers directly influenced the more sophisticated do-it-yourself romps of John Waters, the host of tonight's program. Their movies are endearing in their refusal to accept any limits as to subject matter.
In one science fiction ending, a toy flying saucer wobbles ridiculously across the screen. And in ''A Town Called Tempest,'' the longest and most coherent of the four, a twister that rips through a Kansas town makes the muslin stocking that passed for a tornado in ''The Wizard of Oz'' look like a real F-5 killer. The earliest film of the four is the 25-minute ''Thief and the Stripper,'' made when the brothers, who grew up in the Bronx, were only 17, using whatever materials and shabby locations were at hand.
Yes, there is an aesthetic to all this. In their crude, na? way, these films embody the anarchistic impulse straining against (and making fun of) the buttoned-down cultural climate of Eisenhower's America and the Hollywood movies that reflected all that bottled-up anxiety.
— Stephen Holden