Features
Reviews
Must Hear Music
Reviews Archives
Archives
Bargain Basement
Downloads
Music DVD
Upstart
Pipsqueaks
 
 
 
Features
Reviews
Archives
Send Us Mail
Contact Us
 
 

TARNATION (not rated, but not for the kids) (2004)

Wellspring Media/Tarnation Films

Official Site

Director: Jonathan Caouette

Producers: Steven Winter, Jonathan Caouette

With: Jonathan Caouette, Renee LeBlanc, Adolph Davis, Rosemary Davis, David Sanin Paz

Rating:


Is having an extraordinary life a good enough reason to make a movie? Is an extraordinary life a good movie in and of itself? Jonathan Caouette’s family life is one long train wreck of abuse and mental illness, both his and his mother’s, and he’s been recording that train wreck since he was 11 years old.

Tarnation is an uber-documentary. The level of Caouette’s documentation of his life is astonishing. To create his ultra-low-budget movie he wove a history out of family photos and home movies, answering machine tapes, Super-8 footage of his journal entries or early acting and directing efforts. It’s a lot of material and Caouette achieves a phenomenal feat of editing. For example, for the journey from NYC back home after his mother’s 2002 lithium overdose, he puts us clearly in the region just by footage of the car trip—the ranch-style houses, refineries, and scrub woods are a perfect distillation of a certain area of Texas.

It’s easy to see why Tarnation attracted the attention of its executive producers (John Cameron Mitchell & Gus Van Sant). It’s emotional, it’s raw, it holds nothing back. This is a real life, one that has not always been pretty and that has the potential at any moment to not be pretty again. Yet the presentation of this unlovely life is astonishingly lovely indeed. In place of voiceover, Caouette uses often-lengthy title cards that sometimes approach poetry, and mighty fine background music. Of necessity, it’s nearly all montage, with a semi-hallucinatory, trance-inducing look.

Yes, Tarnation is indeed something special and wonderful to look at, but it’s still just a glorified peep show, the logical extreme of the reality shows and talk shows that litter the TV landscape right now. Only its unusually attractive presentation separates it from any number of tell-alls. The mark of a movie’s goodness must be more than just the fact that it presents and provokes genuine emotion. The events we witness in Tarnation are definitely more emotionally valid than, say, a cute-kid-with-disease movie where your feelings get played like a violin. But does that by definition make a movie “good”—the fact that someone presents to us an unsparing examination his or her life? I think not. One can feel sorry about the hardships of Mr. Caouette’s early life and admire his clear-eyed look back while still believing that privacy does, and should, exist.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

-------


South By Southwest 2014
David DeVoe

South By Southwest 2013
David DeVoe

Red Hook Music Festival
George Dow

SXSW 2012
David DeVoe

Our Favorite Records 2011
Hybrid Staff

AWOLNation
Rachel Fredrickson

Kanrocksas
Rachel Fredrickson

Warped Tour 2011
Rachel Fredrickson

Eddie Spaghetti
Melissa Skrbic-Huss

Murder By Death
Mike DeLeo


Mike Doughty
Boulder, CO

Epilogues
Denver, CO

Imagine Dragons
Denver, CO

Sebadoh
Cambridge, MA

Young Magic
Denver, CO

Warped Tour 2012
Denver, CO

Thrice
Denver, CO

Mike Doughty
Denver, CO

MuteMath
Kansas City, MO

Other Lives
Lawrence, KS

Los Campesinos
Boston, MA

The Civil Wars
Lawrence, KS

Ha Ha Tonka
Lawrence, KS

Thrice
Lawrence, KS


 
hybridmagazine.com is updated daily except when it isn't.
New film reviews are posted every week like faulty clockwork.
Wanna write for hybrid? Send us an e-mail.
© 1996-2009 [noun] digital media. All rights reserved worldwide. All content on hybridmagazine.com and levelheadedmusic.com is the intellectual property of Hybrid Magazine and its respective creators. No part of hybridmagazine.com or levelheadedmusic.com may be reproduced in any format without expressed written permission. For complete masthead and physical mailing address, Click Here.