Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 2003. Tarnation Films, Wellspring Media. Screenplay by Jonathan Caouette. Cinematography by Jonathan Caouette. Produced by Joantha Caouette, Stephen Winter. Music by John Califra, Max Avery Lichtenstein. Film Editing by Jonathan Caouette, Brian A. Kates.
This video diaries of director Jonathan Caouette make for heavily effective viewing in this fascinating documentary. Caouette records his life with his family from his childhood in Austin, Texas to his adult years in New York City, his own personal observations set against the slowly disintegrating stasis of his mentally ill mother. A photo model as a child, Caouette’s mother Renee LeBlanc suffered a terrible accident at the age of twelve that resulted in needless psychiatric therapy which left her severely damaged for the rest of her life. This also left her young son in the care of abusive foster homes until his grandparents adopted him and provided him with a steady home to grow up in. Using a dreamy, hypnotic collage style of imagery that is reminiscent of early Derek Jarman, Caouette avoids what could have been an exercise in narcissism and instead presents something that is deeply felt and genuinely touching. There is an undercurrent of love to all the images and to the presentation of the broken spirit of his mother that will leave its mark on you for some time afterwards.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2004