Directed by Jonathan Caouette, starring Jonathan Caouette, Renee LeBlanc, David Sanin Paz, Rosemary Davis and Adolph Davis.
Shot over a period of 20 years, Jonathan Caouette's 'Tarnation' was made on a budget of $220, using Apple's iMovie software. The result is a powerful and disturbing account of mental illness and the effects it has on families.
The documentary begins in 2003, just as Caouette discovers that his mother Renee has taken a lithium overdose. From there Caouette takes us on a journey of his life through film, video diaries, telephone conversations, photos and snippets of popular culture, relating the tragic story of his mother's mental illness and its subsequent effect on his own psychological health. We're treated to self-shot movies of Caouette in drag, examples of his obsession with film, particularly horror, and intimate footage of his family as he chronicles the emotional rollercoaster of his life.
Caouette's narrative is poignant, honest and very shocking, particularly where it details his mother's life and in the footage of her in a deranged state, as well as in Caouette's personal reflections. Caouette's juxtaposition of images and the frenetic way they are presented really does give you an insight into the whirlwind of his emotions and memories.
'Tarnation' is not a movie you can enjoy by any means, but it's one whose themes and images will stay with you, whether you want them to or not and one which marks Jonathan Caouette as a documentarian of note.