Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hold Me While I'm Naked

Hold Me While I’m Naked
Director: George Kuchar
Starring: Donna Kerness, George Kuchar

I just plain don’t get, or like, experimental films.  Whenever I see that tag of “avant-garde” on a flick, I tense up.  Oh dear lord, what will this one do to me now?  But 1001 Movies always has a lesson or two to teach me about never discounting an entire genre of films.  There are always exceptions to the rules, and I can’t help but enjoy Hold Me While I’m Naked.  Well, as much as I could enjoy an experimental film.

The scant plot of this scant film (it clocks in at 15 minutes) is of a director (Kuchar) trying to make a movie.  One of his lead actresses pulls out halfway through the shoot (Kerness) so he has to find a replacement.  Meanwhile, off screen, we see said actress having sexy fun times with a significant other while our poor director leads a rather solitary, lonely life.

And that’s it.  I mean, at 15 minutes, it’s barely there.  But I’ve seen films where 15 minutes can feel like a chore, and it doesn’t here.  In fact, I’d even go so far to say I wouldn’t mind this particular film being a bit longer.  Wow, did I really just say that?

Why is this so much more amusing than a typical sixties experimental film?  Simple: George Kuchar.  As both director and star, this film is clearly HIS, and it’s evident from the opening that Kuchar has a huge sense of humor.  His voiceover as he coaches his actress through her scenes makes me smile.  And his dialogue as he’s shooting a love scene later just slays me with its bizarre juxtapositions: “Tomorrow we do the massage table scene and maybe we’ll do the scene where you’re found naked in a fallout shelter and there are those radioactive welts on your thigh.”  Wait… WHAT?  Radioactive welts?  Fallout shelter?  From a love scene?  I honestly can’t help but laugh at that sort of ridiculous swing in imagery.  The circus-esque music in the opening credits sets the stage for such an approach. 

Kuchar also makes me laugh later in the film when we continually cut back and forth between couples having sexy times in a shower and him, Kuchar, taking a shower alone, by himself, and banging his head against the wall.  It’s a bit sad, and there’s definitely a poignancy there about a man sacrificing everything for his “art” even though the art is a bit crap.  It’s rather reminiscent of Ed Wood, really.  And yet, despite the pathetic nature, it’s also funny.  Going back and forth between two people obvious each enjoying their time together to Kuchar banally taking off his socks and stepping in his tiny shower… really, it’s funny.  At least to me.

I first saw Hold Me While I’m Naked at the Dryden when they did an evening of screening art house/experimental shorts from the sixties and seventies, and this was before I could see these shorts on youtube or anyplace else.  This was my only chance to see these films.  There were several Andy Warhol films on the docket that evening, and Blonde Cobra was shown as well.  Hold Me While I’m Naked was shown by Kuchar, as was his later short from the seventies, I, An Actress.  I am sure that this is why I’m rather keen on Hold Me While I’m Naked – because when you spend an evening watching Blonde Cobra and Andy Warhol, and then you watch something by George Kuchar, you leap all over that last stuff.  Kuchar’s sense of play, optimism, and humor, really shines through amongst all the ridiculous posturing of the other shorts.  And I think I, An Actress makes a great companion piece to Hold Me While I’m Naked.  It’s even shorter (9 minutes) but again we have Kuchar playing a director making a movie.  Instead, though, in I, An Actress, the entire short is Kuchar coaching his lead actress through a scene, and it’s hysterical as he grows even more over the top in his delivery of her lines (even the actress can’t keep a straight face).  This wacko crazy approach to film works well for me, at least when you contrast it with the other experimental shorts of the time that drive me absolutely bonkers. 

Hold Me While I’m Naked may not make much sense, but at least it laughs at itself.  At least it will make you laugh.  George Kuchar seemed like a really fun guy, and he clearly loved film.  Honestly, I’m glad this selection is in 1001 Movies.  It’s a diverting, campy little 15 minutes of your life.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10