“TARNATION”–a personal photo album


A Personal Photo Album

Amos Lassen

“Tarnation” made for less than $300 is an autobiographical documentary made by Jonathan Caouette. It is chaotic, it is blurry, it is weird but most of all it is real. It is also one of the most touching films I have ever seen. Caouette recorded\his family concentrating on the mistreatment of his mother and the impact it had on his own life He used old home movies and photographs to assemble a collage which documents his and his mother’s lives. Some of this includes his mothers various stints at psychiatric hospitals and his own entrance into the world of underground filmmaking.

The style that we get both disquiets and disorients and is anarchistic. I am sure that not many have been able to sit through the entire film (although I did). The film is grainy and repeats itself several times. The director devised his own techniques and uses them over and over.

There is great material here for a film if it were given to the right person. One terrible thing after another seems to happen to him and his family.

The film does take shape and show prose when Caouette concentrates on his own gay life. His coming out story is interesting and his life as a gay male is fascinating. There are even parts of his familial life that are interesting to watch.

If you are able to sit through the entire movie, you will see something that will break your heart and your spirit. I only wish that the whole thing would have been more professional.

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