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  • Mike Kuchar, The Secret of Wendel Samson 1966, film still

    Mike Kuchar, The Secret of Wendel Samson 1966, film still

    © Courtesy of the artist

  • Mike Kuchar, The Secret of Wendel Samson 1966, film still

    Mike Kuchar, The Secret of Wendel Samson 1966, film still

    © Courtesy of the artist

These personal works explore the longing and struggle for happiness and fulfilment in an uncaring world. The Secret of Wendel Samson 1966 is a pioneering portrait of confused young man struggling with his sexual identity and societal pressures. One of Mike Kuchar’s most complex films, it deftly marries humour with tenderness, misery with flamboyance and depicts the interior struggle of its protagonist through a host of fantastic cinematic devices. From the psychodrama of Wendel Samson the programme shifts to the dual portrait of two San Francisco males in The Pictures of Dorian Gay 1995, an equally irreverent and loving homage to two friends made in the shadow of the Aids crisis and the emotional maelstrom that threatens to draw in all the guests at a fateful party in Happy Birthday! 2013 with a cast drawn from friends and students at the San Francisco Art Institute.

The programme concludes with the rare film Portrait of George and Mike Kuchar filmed by their friend and colleague, the acclaimed German queer filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim in 1977.

Presented by Mike Kuchar in person.

The Secret of Wendel Samson

Mike Kuchar, USA 1966, 16 mm, colour, 34 min
Starring Red Grooms as Wendell Samson.

Who is Wendell Samson? He is a Universe in himself, but perhaps even more complex. The Cosmic Bubble is governed by the forces of electrical magnetic inertia. He is governed by a need. Unstable. A hunger to understand the impossible. Himself maybe. A quest to find the equation to happiness in a cosmic structure where happiness is not a physical property. He is a Star in the cluster of stars. A solar speck in the speckled nebula of souls. A silent phantom radiating in the heavens of shining phantoms. Floating on islands within islands, in a bubble, fifty trillion light years curved.

The Pictures of Dorian Gay

Mike Kuchar, USA 1995, video, colour, 23 min

Paint drips and body fluids ooze in this ‘tell all’ and ‘hide nothing’ documentary about two San Francisco males. This playful and poignant film celebrates the life of two exuberant men in the shadow of the Aids crisis.

Happy Birthday!

Mike Kuchar, USA 2013, video, colour, 21 min

‘Misery’ doesn’t like ‘company’, – but ‘company’ does love a ‘party’, so come join in on a catastrophic celebration, and do ‘hang on’ tight – because it’s a steep ride down into the depths of a soul in meltdown mode!

Portrait of George and Mike Kuchar

Rosa von Praunheim, Germany, 1977, 20 min

Widely regarded as a founding work of the gay liberation movement in Germany, Rosa von Praunheim made this portrait of George and Mike Kucahr in the late 1970s at the start of Rosa’s influential career. Mike Kuchar worked closely with Rosa von Praunheim in the 1990 as the cinematographer on films including the pioneering series of documentaries on the Aids crisis Positive 1990 and Silence = Death 1990.

Programme duration: 97 min

Tate Film is supported by Maja Hoffmann / LUMA Foundation