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Tarnation

Genre: Documentary/Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: JONATHAN CAOUETTE
Produced by: Gus Van Sant, Stephen Winter, Jonathan Caouette
Starring: JONATHAN CAOUETTE, RENEE LEBLANC, ROSEMARY DAVIS, ADOLPH DAVIS
Released by: Wellspring Media

In Short: Caouette's collage of video footage, still photography, TV and horror movie clips, musicals and voice mail recordings has reinvented the documentary genre. Tarnation is a flat-out masterpiece!


What in Tarnation!
A New Genre: The Audio-Visual Confessional
By Sylvie Greil

Get ready for a psychotic, psychedelic roller coaster ride that will leave you slightly queasy and very inspired to…make art, paint, write a novel or pick up a camcorder and document your own dysfunctional life. Director savant Jonathan Caouette, 32, has done the latter, since he was seven years old, and in 2003 with a laptop, a budget of $218 and later famous help from executive producer Gus Van Sant turned his entire chaotic, crazy life full of mental illness, foster homes, physical and mental abuse, drug experimentation, suicide attempts, electroshock treatments, being gay in Houston… into a work of art that has stunned film critics and audiences around the world.

All this sounds a bit much to take, you think? Why would one care about the sicko-weirdo ruminations and obsessive-compulsive recordings of one disturbed young man? Because he touches us; because we all have a bit of dysfunction, some very smelly skeletons in the closet, and times we feel like we're going crazy; and, because there is so much love between Caouette and his ill mother. Then there's the human spirit and desire to create art from pain. A cliché? No, the most successful coping mechanism there is.



Watch an 11-year-old Caouette film himself in the role of a battered Texan housewife, tugging at a Flock-of-Seagulls inspired shock of hair. It's so funny it makes you cry. How can a small boy know so much about pain? Maybe because his beautiful model Mom fell off a roof, became paralyzed, underwent god knows how many electroshock treatments and later, toward the end of the film, ends up brain damaged in a filthy house singing odes to her pumpkin?

Caouette's collage of video footage, still photography, TV and horror movie clips, musicals and voice mail recordings has reinvented the documentary genre. Tarnation is a flat-out masterpiece. Caouette is a visionary, and if success doesn't spoil him, look out for what this talent will do with a real budget!


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