Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's documentary on growing up with his schizophrenic mother -- a mixture of snapshots, Super-8, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, and more -- culled from 19 years of his life.
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Part documentary, part narrative fiction, part home movie, and part acid trip. A psychedelic whirlwind of snapshots, Super-8 home movies, old answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, snippets of '80s pop culture, and dramatic reenactments to create an epic portrait of an American family travesty. The story begins in 2003 when Jonathan learns that his schizophrenic mother, Renee, has overdosed on her lithium medication. He is catapulted back into his real and horrifying family legacy of rape, abandonment, promiscuity, drug addiction, child abuse, and psychosis. As he grows up on camera, he finds the escapist balm of musical theater and B horror flicks and reconnects to life through a queer chosen family. Then a look into the future shows Jonathan as he confronts the symbiotic and almost unbearable love he shares with his beautiful and tragically damaged mother. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This was a unique and creative piece of film work, and Jonathan Caouette shows himself to be very talented. The films he made of himself as other characters when he was just 11 years old are remarkable. Where he started off and where he ended up are two entirely different things, however. What began as original and spontaneous ends as staged and contrived. And in between are some very disturbing things, not the least of which is Caouette's manipulation of his family as stage props.
He antagonizes the very ones he claims to love for the sake of staging scenes, sometimes even at the risk of sending his mother into psychotic episodes. Caouette's treatment of his grandfather (whom he calls 'Dad') in one scene is so detestable that you have to question if he has any sense of decency at all. Some gratitude to 'Dad' for raising him, huh? Caouette crosses so many boundaries that it left me thinking of him as nothing less than a wretch.
Finally, notwithstanding the plot summaries you may read on sites such as IMDb, the central theme of the movie is not about Caouette's psychotic mother. It's about him; she's merely a story line that he conveniently returns to from time to time to create the impression otherwise. But it's a false impression. This is nothing more than a totally self-absorbed film by Jonathan Caouette about Jonathan Caouette. His family merely comes along for the ride, which turns into a wreck which he walks away from leaving them broken and in pain.
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