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Tarnation [DVD]

Jonathan Caouette , Renee Leblanc , Jonathan Caouette    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: 7.88 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Jonathan Caouette, Renee Leblanc, Adolph Davis, Rosemary Davis, David Sanin Paz
  • Directors: Jonathan Caouette
  • Writers: Jonathan Caouette
  • Producers: Jonathan Caouette, Gus Van Sant, Jason Banker, John Cameron Mitchell, Marie Therese Guirgis
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Studiocanal
  • DVD Release Date: 25 July 2005
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009PGTD8


Product Description

Corruscating documentary self-portrait by filmmaker Jonathan Caouette, recounting his chaotic upbringing in a disfunctional Texas family. Beginning in 2003, when he learns of his mother's lithium overdose, Caouette returns to the family home to sift through the Super-8 archives of his childhood, assembling a collage of home-movie footage, early short films, photographs and even answerphone messages to explore the break-up of his family, in a documentary that was made for only $218.

Product Description

Part documentary, part narrative fiction, part home movie, and part acid trip. A psychedelic whirlwind of snapshots, Super-8 home movies, old answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, snippets of '80s pop culture, and dramatic reenactments to create an epic portrait of an American family travesty. The story begins in 2003 when Jonathan learns that his schizophrenic mother, Renee, has overdosed on her lithium medication. He is catapulted back into his real and horrifying family legacy of rape, abandonment, promiscuity, drug addiction, child abuse, and psychosis. As he grows up on camera, he finds the escapist balm of musical theater and B horror flicks and reconnects to life through a queer chosen family. Then a look into the future shows Jonathan as he confronts the symbiotic and almost unbearable love he shares with his beautiful and tragically damaged mother.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars testing and difficult 2 Dec 2012
By pipnuts
Watching this made me feel like a combination of trusted personal confidante and intrusive stalker, but it is probably one of the best accounts around of living with someone who is traumatised and mentally ill. The story is biographical, and told entirely through photographs and home movies, and is written and narrated by the subject's son. The story is told from his perspective.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man's love for his mother 9 Aug 2005
By Marcus
This really is something this film. It has taken over 20 years to put together.
Essentially a biography of a family told using photos, videos, audio recordings taken over the years.
These images and movies are cut together with a soundtrack from the likes of Low and Iron and Wine and are 'narrated' by stark overlaid text.
The film was apparently produced for next to nothing using nothing more than an iMac and it's stark simplicity simply hypnotises you.
It is the story of the film-maker (Jonathon Caouette), his mother and his grand-parents. He was raised by his grand-parents whilst his mother underwent years of barbaric treatment in psychiatric wards - all sanctioned by her parents. A terrible tale of a woman who, initially, had nothing wrong with her and was subjected to hundreds of electro-shock therapy sessions and eventually a lithium overdose. This radically changed a beautiful, ex-model into a disturbed, yet still vibrant women.
Her son shows her the kind of love that really hits home. Incredibly touching displays of his commitment to her.
Overall, it is a very sad story which warms the heart. You can not look away from the screen for a second as the perfect cadence of the film beats on. It'll upset you and make you feel great all at once. And you will ring your mother at the end of it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic but flawed achievement. 18 Jan 2006
The fact that this allegedly cost around $260 dollars to make is incredible and gives great hope for the future of cinema and also great dread that any old fool with a video camera will soon be clogging up our already limited arthouse cinema screentime with their introspective woes. This is an extremely heartbreaking story of a mother possibly misdiagnosed with mental problems and subsequently driven to madness by the 'treatment'. And that is the only problem with the film. My sympathies lie firmly with the director's mother and not the director whose crying in front of camera seemed rather more self-pitying than genuine. Call me hard-hearted (you may well be right) but would someone that filled with grief really wait to set up a camera in a bathroom before breaking down in front of it? Regardless, the film deserves to be seen by as large an audience as possible.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Narcissism and little else. 12 April 2009
Tarnation is a product of its time. In a world of reality TV and voyeurism as entertainment garbage such as this garners critical acclaim.

There is nothing really new about Tarnation, it owes much of its approach to the equally `look-at-me-everyone' productions from Warhol's Factory. It is not even about a family, but the self glorification and petulant bratishness of Jonathon Caouette, the central character and `creator'. The cheapness of it can be found in the content, where an obviously deteriorating woman (Caouette's grandmother) is paraded about like a circus freak.

The cheap shots at institutions may seem radical but at the time these people were working in the best interests of people and knocking established practices is nothing new.

That this trash ever reached commercial DVD is not a triumph for Caouette but a sad reflection on the low expectations of critics and audience alike. Many of those who praise this would, no doubt, be the first to condemn tabloid readers, but really this is the nadir of entertainment.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated 13 April 2006
Jonathan Caouette's highly personal film lends itself more to installational video art than to cinema or even documentary. Its frenetic visual style, using splices of camcorder and digital video footage taken over a twenty year period, often detracts from what might be of interest on camera itself. There is too much lo-fi trickery for the viewer to become especially involved in what is undeniably an extraordinary family history. This is frustrating because footage obviously exists that would be able to comprise a fantastic documentary - think of Capturing the Friedmans or Grizzly Man. But unlike those films Caouette is often preoccupied with convincing the viewer of his drug-damaged worldview (we are told he became "depersonalised" after smoking PCP) through a maddening bombardment of imagery, rather than letting the real people and emotions doing the talking.

Some of the imagery is interesting, but much of it derivative and excessive. Caouette is obviously trying to achieve something more subjectivised and abstract than a straight-forward documentary, but then the effect - as with much of the gallery-based video art it resembles - is more alienating than perhaps is intended. The more he experiments with video form, the more the content is debased to sheer spectacle. Moreover, when Caouette turns the camera on himself in the film's present - willing himself to confront his family - it seems contrived, as if he can't find a way to create closure for his film without forcing an ending. Highly overrated, and not to be confused with the current renaissance in documentary cinema (including some of the films I have mentioned above).
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