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This trio of tasty treats, among the last George Kuchar would make before his untimely passing, are exquisite examples of his video diaries—a significant part of his prodigious practice since his transition to video. Tummy Ache Times (2010) chronicles Kuchar celebrating Christmas with comrades and kin, filling his face with festive foodstuffs and obsessing over the anticipated onset of obesity. In The Butchered Beefcake (2011) we accompany him on a cross-country journey as he exhibits his concupiscent creations, climaxing in a spectacular sequence in which he stars as a bisexual paraplegic in a soft-core sex scene opposite an anxious Adonis. In the aftermath of such an exciting erotic exploit, Hotspell (2011) finds our hero heading deep into the heart of Tornado Alley in search of the perfect storm and a little rest and relaxation.
Although these videos contain his trademark sense of humour, the spectres of aging, illness and death are prescient, particularly in the guise of sick and dying pets. In one video, a friend asks about his health. “It might be a small c,” he replies, alluding to the prostate cancer that would eventually take his life. Unafraid to turn the camera on his own aging body, these videos afford us a candid glimpse into his life (warts and all!) and are a fitting tribute to his legacy.
Recently restored to its raunchy resplendence, the 1973 Kuchar feature The Devil’s Cleavage (122 min, B&W) will be screened following the video program. Preserved by Pacific Film Archive with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
“… George Kuchar’s lovingly farcical re-creation of those (Forties and Fifties) melodramas, The Devil’s Cleavage, is a camp parody that sometimes directly steals from the genre, sometimes burlesques it, and often travesties it. As you might expect, it soon begins to mock all kinds of cinematic references, from Hitchcock to Preminger. But leave the exact details to pedants, laughter’s the thing here. Kuchar manages terribly well in terms of imagination and inventiveness, and just plain terribly in terms of such humdrum details of filming as using a light meter and tape recorder. Technical ineptness aside, we end up with a marvelous hybrid, as if Sam Fuller and Sternberg had collaborated in shooting a script by Tennessee Williams and Russ Meyer. Which is to say that excess is the most basic element of Kuchar’s method, even when (almost paradoxically) it’s an excess of cliche (‘Such language! Bite your tongue!’ ‘Bite it for me …’). …Douglas Sirk tells us, ‘Cinema is blood, tears, violence, hate, death, and love.’ Kuchar reminds us that cinema, like life, is also bedpans, earwax, sleazy fantasy, ineptness, compromise, and laughter.” Chuck Kleinhans, Gene Siskel Film Center
“Toward the end of this paralytically funny film, a Kucharian buck blurts out, ‘If there’s no food for the peasants, give them cheesecake, give them beefcake.’ Fortunately, there’s plenty of both: cheesecake in the form of luscious, high-cholesterol drama, and beefcake in the form of firmly faceted physiques swathed in the attire of shame. Kuchar’s heady brew froths around a pent-up nurse named Ginger whose marriage is on the rocks when she would prefer it to be straight up. Leaving behind the heaving hills of San Francisco, she heads for new misadventures in the rollicking town of Blessed Prairie, Oklahoma. Kuchar’s rousing cast, including the ever-pouty Ainslie Pryor and the provocatively prim Curt McDowell, pass through a jungle of moodily-lit interiors whose effect is dime-store von Sternberg, a creeping claustrophobia of dark shadows and cheap trinkets. Lifting lavishly from Sirk and the circus, Kuchar, that great impresario of the inappropriate, has immortalized ‘a biped in heat.’” Steve Seid, PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE
“Desire and death are in the air, along with some aromatic wisps of ethnic edibles, so be sure to sniff it all.” George Kuchar
Conversation between George Kuchar and Guy Maddin, Moderated by WNDX Programmer, Irene Bindi, October 3, 2011 > http://vimeo.com/28903647