George Kuchar's Weather Diaries
This whole thing started because of my interest in nature. Since I was a city boy, living in The Bronx, nature came to me via the colorful tapestry of sky that loomed above the tenements. The awe of summer thunderstorms, smothering blizzards and window rattling nor'easters left a lasting impression on me. I sought out, via library books, the superstars of this meteorological majesty and read up on hurricanes, tornadoes and other terrors that occasionally whirled into urban awareness. Loving to draw and paint, I happened to come upon the books of Eric Sloane. He was an artist very interested in Americana and American weather. His beautifully illustrated volumes on the atmosphere were of great aesthetic and scientific value to me. I learned how to read the clouds, and it made going out everyday a kind of heavenly horoscope. Eventually I was lucky enough to get a job doing weather maps for a local NBC news show. Frank Fields was the weatherman on that program, and he was astounded that I knew what the clouds accompanying storm fronts looked like. Previous visual artists had drawn amorphous-looking atrocities that resembled deflated duffle bags. Mine were anatomically correct aerial artifacts of blossoming beauty. His weather maps were my chance to display the knowledge I had acquired from Eric Sloane and from scanning the skies with new eyes. I developed a fascination with thunderstorms and the furious whirlwinds they sometimes unleashed on the landscape. Instead of just reading accounts of these monstrous, whirling dervishes, and the lives of those caught in the vicinity of the vortex, I decided to take an airplane and go to where they huffed and puffed. So I wound up in Oklahoma City during springtime. I'd stay at the YMCA for three or four weeks and try to absorb, on all levels, the mysterious elements that now obsessed me. I was young and time stretched ahead of me in a seemingly endless event horizon. Perhaps I could fill my head with images and sound that previously had only come from reading books on this subject. This would be the real thing. I am not a storm chaser as I never learned how to drive a car. I wanted to experience springtime storms on the American plains like the simple folk I read about in those library books. Therefore the videos in the weather diaries depict the turmoil, tedium, terror and televised terrain of tornado country through the eyes of a transplant. At times I try to blend in, to digest the alien ambiance, the fast food and slow-motion days. Ailments galore pepper the series along with glimpses of those who pass like gas, vapors of vitality to sniff at with a gizmo that doesn't have a nose. But I do hope you enjoy what its eye captures on this journey of jubilant junk food and delightful dread.
A longtime luminary of underground cinema, George Kuchar has defined his own inimitable track, producing ingenious, low-budget melodramas at a stunningly prolific pace since he began shooting 8mm as a teenager in the Bronx. Like his extraordinary early films, the Weather Diaries' lack of pretension and gloss reveals a sincerely dramatic, funny and vulnerable perspective of the endlessly inspired and inspiring entity that is George Kuchar. The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to welcome Mr. Kuchar back to the theater with his own selection of journalistic escapades chasing tempests both meteorological and corporeal.