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Tarnation, Round Two

kgould's picture

This is my second time watching Tarnation (2003) by Jonathan Caouette, and I have to say that I was just as disturbed and just as impressed as the first time I watched it. 

I like the editing in the film and I like the layering of sound, texture, and pace: when the film introduces his mother's shock treatments, there is a layering of extradiegetic music, recorded conversations, and sound effects that creates a disorienting, multi-faceted listening experience-- in conjunction with the photographs and images flashing on the screen. The layered pacing stood out to me as much as it did the first time, with mellow music and fast, stuttering visuals underneath smooth intertitles. It creates the feeling of being on an acid-trip, a whirlwind of sensation, and not a pleasant one at that.

A lot of the film is like "living within a dream," and while it did seem to have a more cohesive narrative than F for Fake, the way in which Caouette edited the clips together, altered and retouched the color, exposure, and saturation in the videos and photographs, made everything very surreal.

I was lucky enough, the first time I watched it, to have Jonathan Caouette there in the classroom-- and lucky enough to listen to him answer questions after the film ended. I'm probably biased because of it, because a person in front of you is more affable and approachable and real than someone on screen, but I found Tarnation and Caouette to be less narcissistic than some film critics have decided--I liked the film and I liked Caouette and I admired him for living through and recording the life that he has lived.

The film is a search for understanding, to complete something cohesive and solid that will tell the story that Caouette was never privy to, that he never understood. Even if it isn't a finished story, or even if some pieces of it are not "real," it still provides a means for both Caouette and the viewer to look inside this family and try to understand the tarnal qualities of their life, and their lives, and the ties that bind them together.


Owl's picture

 I also found that this movie

 I also found that this movie was very compelling as a result of Caouette's intriguing film editing.  I also felt like the film was done as though it was all a dream,(maybe more like a horror film) taking the individual through a long and winding road of misery in not being able to find the (their) truth. 

I felt, as  I was watching the film, that Caouette himself sided more with his mother than with his grandmother and grandfather. I think the emotion, that the words he uses within the film to narrate the story, evoke is one of sadness of never being able to fully enjoy childhood with a mother, as a result of one incident that was made worse by his grandparents.

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