Oh, Brothers!


Last night in San Francisco, SF Art Institute opened its gorgeous, intricate, and ghostly recreation of all things George Kuchar (“Living in Studio Kuchar”) with Mike Kuchar in-person for a memorial tribute and party so high and low, wild and woolly, earnest and uncontainable that it seemed to have been orchestrated by George himself. There will never be another brother act like the Kuchars, whose lives intersected during key and formative periods. But it is, indeed, a big week for brothers in the filmmaking world. Three sets of brothers are screening films at South by Southwest Film Festival, which is now in progress. The Austin-based Zellner brothers (David and Nathan) show their new feature, Kid-Thing; New York-raised Safdies (Josh and Benny) screen their shorts; and Mumblecore maestros Jay and Mark Duplass offer up their latest, The Do-Deca Pentathlon, as an Austin premiere.

1. David and Nathan Zellner

A short viewing of a Sasquatch Birth Journal 2 (a very furry birth, which is exactly what it sounds like) or Aftermath on Meadowlark Lane (an argument over circumcision, which is nothing like what it sounds like) keys you into the fact that the Zellners are an extremely specialized, as well as special, pair. To quote the programmer most likely to host outside acts and experimental dramatists San Francisco Film Society’s Sean Uyehara (and I can’t imagine anyone better to quote on this subject), “The Zellner brothers have consistently created some the most absurd, uncomfortably funny films over the last decade. And, for all of the hype around the misnomer ‘indie,’ it is in fact quite rare for filmmakers to continuously produce films outside of mainstream funding and distribution sources. The Zellners are real outsiders.”

2. George and Mike Kuchar

A San Francisco super 8mm eccentric himself, Danny Plotnick wrote in Keyframe, at the time George Kuchar passed away in 2011, that “for those who cast their cinematic gaze not towards the rarified air of Hollywood, but towards garishly lit back alleys and cold-water flats filled with teenage rumpots running amok, Kuchar was your man….George, along with brother Mike, were huge influences on John Waters, who continually sings the praises of the Kuchars as filmmakers who gave him the courage to unleash his early Balto monstrosities on the world.” The brothers certainly share more than a last name. Mike-directed projects Sins of the Fleshapoids, The Secret of Wendel Samson, and The Craven Sluck can be viewed here.

‘George, along with brother Mike, were huge influences on John Waters, who continually sings the praises of the Kuchars as filmmakers who gave him the courage to unleash his early Balto monstrosities on the world,’ writes Danny Plotnick.

3. Jay and Mark Duplass

It’s fitting that Jay and Mark Duplass, the “Maestros of Mumblecore,” take on the uniquely complicated relationships between brothers in their two latest projects. Having collaborated on writing, directing and producing films over the past decade or so they surely have generated loads of authentic material to work with. With Jeff, who Lives at Home hitting theaters on March 16 and The Do-Deca Pentathlon premiering at SXSW next week (Fox Searchlight and Red Flag Releasing have already snagged rights to the film), they’ve wasted no time delivering more of that special Duplass brand of arrested development—which is sure to please their growing fan base. (Side note from SB: Coincidently, my father watched Cyrus for the third time last night and he reports that it’s just as good as the first time around.)

4.  Josh and Benny Safdie

The Safdies are also showing a new film at SXSW next week, with The Black Balloon screening in the narrative short competition (it already won an award at Sundance earlier this year). But you don’t need to travel to Austin to enjoy the idiosyncratic, lyrical vision of these young filmmakers from New York. Between the two, Fandor has accumulated nine of their short films, including their most recent collaboration John’s Gone. With cinematography that harkens back to early 90s home video, John’s Gone features the subtle, mundane comedy and colorful urban characters that are hallmarks of the Safdie Brothers’ films.

5. The Glenroy Brothers

Two Vaudevillians box as “the tramp and the athlete” in two Edison Studio experiments on film: The Glenroy Brothers and The Glenroy Brothers, no. 2 (No. 2 is the one which features higher comedy and better cartwheeling along with its Jon Mirsalis score). It’s not the excruciating pugilism of today, but a physical comedy spectacle and Three Stooges precursor.

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