A New Genre: The Audio-Visual Confessional
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.
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.
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?
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!