George Kuchar in Tone Madison

Melodrama / Melodiary: Three Videos By George Kuchar

Mills Folly Microcinema celebrates an eccentric filmmaker's encounters with Madison. Info


The Mills Folly Microcinema series leaps into 2019 with the accessible eccentricities of the late George Kuchar, whose 1989 visit to the UW-Madison campus inspired the cheeky meta diary-film, 500 Millibars To Ecstasy, now celebrating its 30th anniversary. Every so often over the years, local screening series in Madison have featured Kuchar’s work, including one of his most famous and influential avant-garde shorts, Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966), which simultaneously embraces high art and kitsch. Kuchar blurs the line between mocking and celebrating the internal melodrama of amateur filmmaking, instilling it with an enchanting performance art quality that inspired provocateur and "Pope of Trash" John Waters.

In this program that shares a similarly irreverent, self-referential spirit, curator James Kreul has gathered a triptych shot on videotape in the latter part of the 1980s. Calling Dr. Petrov (1986) reveals more direct ties to the staging of the creative process in Hold Me, while the successive two offer a sort of comic meditation on the personal video diary (predating the modern "vlog"). Widening his coy commentary, absurdist first-person observations, and an askew, reflexive collagist editing style, Weather Diary 3 (1988) and 500 Millibars starkly and immediately provide an artery into Kuchar's distinctive methodology. Where Petrov is more theatrically claustrophobic, the skies of El Reno, OK, in Weather Diary are spacious, and precipitate Kuchar's escalating fascination with weather patterns and meteorology that resurface in 500 Millibars through his encounters with former UW-Madison student Mike Kuetemeyer. Traveling with his creative partner Jerome in the latter, Kuchar concurrently narrates his experiences from the past and present with a leering hilarity as he scouts several presently iconic and former establishments in the State Street vicinity. —Grant Phipps