A Lynbrook High School graduate who is remembered by one of his teachers for ruining piano benches in the school returns to the Bay Area Friday for a week-long showing of his film, Shuffle at Camera 3 in downtown San Jose.
“A former Lynbrook choir boy of mine is a film director and composer, his name is Kurt Kuenne. He used to wreck all the piano benches at school because he would rock on them when he played,” wrote Crystal Isola, the school’s music director, in an email encouraging people to go see Kuenne’s film while it’s showing in town.
Kuenne, who lived about four blocks from Lynbrook, has no recollection of Isola’s account.
“I was busy playing the piano I guess. I have no memory of (wrecking the piano benches),” Kuenne says laughing from his southern California home.
His new flick, Shuffle—showing at Camera 3 from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1—is a story of a man who discovers he is living life out of chronological order. One day he wakes up and he’s 8-years-old, the next he’s 30.
“It’s like Twilight Zone meets It’s a Wonderful Life,” Kuenne says.
Kuenne, who attended St. Andrews School in Saratoga, and Miller Middle School in Cupertino—has been making films since he was a kid and those who attended Lynbrook at the same time as the 1991 graduate may recall seeing him on and around campus with his camera. Some may be in some of that old footage.
Among those who are in the archives of Kuenne’s work is Andrew Coven, who now lives in Los Gatos and remains friends with Kuenne. Another Andrew—Andrew Bagby—appeared in enough of Kuenne’s footage to help Kuenne make a documentary about the tragic death of Bagby, and the circumstances that followed.
Dear Zachary, like Shuffle, received multiple awards, including the local Cinequest Film Festival.
“Cinequest has been such a wonderful organization. They’ve shown pretty much every film I’ve made since film school, something like 11 projects,” Kuenne says. “It’s a fantastic festival. When I travel around to other places, they know the name. It’s got a really good reputation all through the country.”
Shuffle is an idea that resulted from a brainstorming session with a movie development executive several years ago, Kuenne says. It sat on the shelf for a variety of reasons but was dusted off and turned into a black and white film written, directed, edited and scored by Kuenne.
The movie is available in color, too, but only in the home versions. In theaters it is shown in black and white, much to the preference of plenty of people Kuenne talks to. During question and answer sessions he holds after some viewings—such as the ones at Camera 3 both Friday and Saturday—Kuenne says that there have been times when he’s mentioned that Shuffle is also available in color.
“The audience will boo me. Some people fall in love with the black and white,” he says.
Stylistically, black and white is the right fit for the subject matter of the film.
“It’s interesting. In some ways it’s kind of a throw back to movies of the 30s. In other ways it’s kind of ultra modern,” says .
Kuenne is a fan of directors of old, naming Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and others as influencers of his unique style.
Denny is a longtime friend of Kuenne’s who met when Kuenne attended De Anza College and took an English class taught by Denny.
Denny and his work have had a lasting influence on Kuenne, moving the film maker and music composer to complete a project. One of Denny’s poems inspired the short movie Slow, which is about appreciating life in your own backyard.
“Slow is based on my poem. There are echoes of the poem in the actual movie,” Denny says. And if you watch the movie you’ll recognize Cupertino’s poet laureate in it briefly.
If Slow sounds familiar, Denny read his poem that inspired it and showed the film at a recent Cupertino Rotary meeting.
“I tend to be more upbeat in world view. A lot of films tend to be cynical and bleak. I try not to do that in my own work,” Kuenne says.
Camera 3 is located at 288 S. Second St., in downtown San Jose. Kuenne will be available for question and answer sessions on Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27. The movie will show daily at 7 p.m. at Camera 3 through Nov. 1.