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4.2 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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(May 17, 2005)
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$5.37 $1.00

Geek Boutique 2016 Geek Boutique HQP

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Editorial Reviews

DVD extras include: Director commentary, optional French subtitles, Photo Gallery. Jonathan Caouette's spellbinding debut film Tarnation re-imagines the whole idea of what a documentary can be. Having filmed his life since he was eleven years old, Caouette has woven together a psychedelic whirlwind of snapshots, super-8 home movies, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, snippets of '80s pop culture and dramatic re-enactments to create an epic portrait of an American family torn apart by dysfunction and reunited through the power of love. arnation begins in 2003 as Caouette learns of his mother's lithium overdose back in his native Texas. Faced with the haunting remnants of his past, including a family history of mental illness, abuse and neglect, Caouette returns home to aid in his mother's recovery. During this time, he rekindles a touching relationship with his mother, another victim of a tumultuous childhood and discovers that family ties are never truly unbound.

Special Features

  • Photo gallery
  • Extended rushes
  • Two bonus tracks with video/ photo montage
  • Poster gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Jonathan Caouette, Renee Leblanc, Adolph Davis, Rosemary Davis, David Sanin Paz
  • Directors: Jonathan Caouette
  • Writers: Jonathan Caouette
  • Producers: Jonathan Caouette, Gus Van Sant, Jason Banker, John Cameron Mitchell, Marie Therese Guirgis
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2005
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Domestic Shipping: Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S. and to APO/FPO addresses. For APO/FPO shipments, please check with the manufacturer regarding warranty and support issues.
  • International Shipping: This item is not eligible for international shipping. Learn More
  • ASIN: B0007Y8ABK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,314 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tarnation" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Tarnation is one of the most moving pieces of art that I have seen in a very long time. When I viewed it, I think everyone in my immediate vicinity had tears in their eyes, if not all over their faces. While Johnathan Caouette is gay, the movie is about much more than that, in the same way that any straight person's life is about much more than just being straight. It is an intense journey which combines audio and visual stimulation in such a way that makes you realize that it is very that same way that a song from 1995 brings you right back to where you were at that moment. It's like a documentary. Like a journal. It is this realness in the film that makes me realize that the subject is more real than any of us would like to acknowledge. Tarnation claws at a number of topics that everyone faces in their real lives because it is a documentation of a real life. Many people find it cathartic in a very literal sense of the word. It helps relieve anxiety and tension by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness. Watch it and you'll see what I mean. It's well worth it.
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Format: DVD
"Tarnation" is an unusual sort of documentary. On the face of it, the film tells the story of 31-year-old filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's lifelong relationship with his Texan family, in particular his difficult but loving bond with his mentally ill mother Renée LeBlanc. But, as "Tarnation" unfolds, it seems the film is a painful attempt to pay tribute to Renée, whose mind was destroyed by hundreds of electroshock treatments, without having much of Renée to get ahold of. "Tarnation" tries to paint a loving portrait of a person who must be reconstructed from the remnants of a shattered personality. It's disturbing and powerful. At the same time, "Tarnation" is a self-portrait of Jonathan Caouette that follows his emotionally tumultuous life from his childhood, through his youth, and finally to a more satisfying life in New York City, his character somehow bound with that of his troubled mother all along.

"Tarnation" is unique in its form as well as its content. The film was famously made for only $218 and edited on Jonathan Caouette's iMac. Caouette uses photographs, old home movies, audio recordings, old television and movie clips, and a few staged reenactments to tell his story. Emulating the style of underground film that its creator has loved since his teens, "Tarnation" makes extensive use of distorted film footage and quick cutting. This doesn't make for easy viewing. The film's grating style will unfortunately limit "Tarnation"'s audience. I found the Hi-8 video manipulated to look like old Super-8 particularly unwatchable. But "Tarnation" is a no-holds-barred self-examination and loving tribute to a woman who could have been. It's fascinating and moving, and sometimes its ugliness suits the subject.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to this movie as so many reviewers raved about it.

At the beginning I thought the execution of the material was original and fresh, but as the movie progressed I started to feel that the focus became lobsided and a bit self centered. Some moments even came across as slightly pretentious. The style also could alienate some viewers. This is not your run-of-the-mill documentary and I would recommend it to people with a vested interested in movies (given the creative way the movie was made), rather than people interested in the subjectmatter.

While I was emotionally involved in a documentary like "My Flesh and Blood", this one left me cold. Rather rent than buy.
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Format: DVD
Caouette takes an original approach to the autobiographical documentary, mostly eschewing hearsay and dramatic re-enactment for a more avant-garde, rock video aesthetic. Utilizing home video footage, some of which dates back to when the subject was barely walking age, he assembles an extremely haunting and stylized pastiche of childhood traumas and adolescent angst. Caouette took to the camera at a very young age, his nascent obsession with capturing images on film serving as his primary means of dealing with years of institutional abuse. But as we watch him grow up before our very eyes, and experience his trials and tribulations, which include sexual experimentation, frequent rages, time in a mental hospital, and a mind-altering experiment involving marijuana dipped in formaldehyde, it also becomes apparent that Jonathan has the soul of an artist, and no shortage of talent wielding his trusty Super 8.

At various points, "Tarnation" stares down the director/subject's Houston-based family, particularly his grandparents, whose unwavering belief in their normalcy blinds them to how irrevocably screwed-up they actually are. They could be brain-damaged; Caouette himself doesn't seem to know for sure. Meanwhile, these chapters of unflinching realism are offset by dreamlike sister passages, as if the great David Lynch, whose work Caouette clearly was a fan of (Indeed, the funniest montage in the film documents Jonathan's successful high school musical production of the 1986 classic, "Blue Velvet"), actually dropped in to personally direct his late night TV-viewing hours.
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