"By, For, and About George Kuchar" celebrates the beloved, rascally filmmaker
TRASH She's an unstoppable force, that Sherri Frankenstein. As embodied by Linda Martinez in an anything-but-soggy serial by George Kuchar, Sherri is endlessly buffeted by life — shoved, mutilated, or worse by rapacious characters ever-eager to administer injections. She's prone to oracular gestures so lengthy and dizzyingly impulse-driven that their conclusions directly contradict the reality around her. But whether she's carousing at a go-go club or distractedly presiding over a Dracula's castle-turned-home for wayward women, Sherri's is a spirit that will not be snuffed.
Sherri's odyssey begins in 2003's Kiss of Frankenstein, a screen adaptation of a 2003 play's torrid and torrential vomitous verbiage. Shot in three hours for $500 and post-dubbed in a bathroom, Kiss is an orgy of all that Kuchar in dramatic mode has to offer — a DayGlo video update of the old dark house scenario of his and Curt McDowell's classic Thundercrack! (1975) with live action-meets-animation interiors that outdo Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) in terms of lurid décor. Martinez's sheer organza negligee is only the raciest fabric in a dance of the 700 veils to rival Kenneth Anger's Puce Moment (1949). The dreamy-eyed male lead's hairy chest and right nipple peeks out from a torn pajama top. A maze of maniacal monologues and mythical machinations — listening to Kuchar's characters rattle off narration, one can't help but ponder the narcissistic nature of memoir — in the form of a hungry Hungarian "pilgrimage for the palate," the first chapter in Kuchar's monstrous equivalent to Wagner's Ring includes a sudden ax attack rendered in the style of William Castle.
Fresh from an acid facial, Sherri is back and pig-biting mad in 2005's The Fury of Frau Frankenstein, another of Kuchar's collaborations with his students at San Francisco Art Institute. Abandoning Kiss's monologues for title cards and visual tale-spinning, Fury introduces Sherri's buxom niece Leticia, whose fate is watched by a Ryan Gosling-like newspaper reporter named Bruce. (In a bit part, young filmmaker Sarah Hagey almost steals the movie while her man is stolen.) Kuchar unleashes a blitz of post-production video effects, placing party scenes within envelopes and sprinkling digital glitter on Sherri's face. Shot for $100 less than its predecessor, Fury is pure cinematic gluttony on a budget: a stew is stirred with a dismembered hand, a glimmering spider web curtain from the previous movie returns as one character's cape, and a bat scurries across a floor in a manner that evokes not just the ravenous killer brains of the 1958 British horror flick Fiend Without a Face, but also furry slippers.
Technical difficulties prevented a viewing of the climax of Kuchar's Frankenstein Cycle, 2008's Crypt of Frankenstein. But Sherri returns in a sequel to the series, 2010's Jewel of Jeopardy, whose cast includes an M.D. A little weary and slurry and lost in the length and relentlessness of her monologues, she's soon helpless — gleefully so — to stop a Dracula who "burns quite easily" as he feasts on the "nubile necks" of her female charges, administering "hellish hickeys." Here, the prop-mad and pixelated fervor of Kuchar's meta-montage reaches its apex: digital blood drapes the screen, hairdos morph into spider webs, a character is beaten with his own severed leg, a Santa Claus wall hanging beams green rays from its eyes, Martinez's flesh is visually rhymed with a Frankenstein mask, and the cast is momentarily lost in a blizzard of animated hearts and stars that would bring a blush to the face of the Lucky Charms leprechaun.
It'll end in puke, of course, but anyone with a hungry eye should welcome the Roxie's decision to put three nights of movies by George Kuchar on its menu. Or a hungry heart: the cheerful gastric onslaughts of Kuchar's Frankenstein cycle are countered by the disarmingly poignant mortal attention to digestion and bodily function in his recent diary films, Vintage Visits, The Nutrient Express, and Dribbles, all from 2010. The time is right to gorge with George.
BY, FOR, AND ABOUT GEORGE KUCHAR
Fri/28–Sun/30, $6–$10 (Fri/28: The Frankenstein Cycle; Sat/29: It Came From Kuchar plus two Kuchar shorts; Sun/30: new video diaries by George Kuchar)
3117 16th St., SF