7.2/10
5,909
114 user 73 critic

Tarnation (2003)

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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9 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Renee Leblanc ...
...
Adolph Davis ...
Rosemary Davis ...
David Sanin Paz ...
Himself
Joshua Williams ...
Himself
Michael Cox ...
Guy cussing in short film
David Leblanc ...
Himself
Stacey Mowery ...
Herself
Michael Mouton ...
Himself
...
Himself (as Bam-Bam)
Vanda Stovall ...
Herself
Dagon James ...
Himself
Vivian Kalinov ...
Herself (as Girl in Student Film)
Steve Caouette ...
Himself
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Your greatest creation is the life you lead


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

10 November 2004 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Kolastirio  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$218 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,740, 10 October 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$592,014, 27 May 2005
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The original cut of the film ran over 2 hrs. and 40 minutes long. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Renee Leblanc: [singing] This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
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Connections

References Seems Like Old Times (1980) See more »

Soundtracks

A Lil' Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place
Written by Carol Hall
Performed by Dolly Parton and Theresa Merritt
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User Reviews

 
Truly inspirational
1 March 2005 | by See all my reviews

First of all, I may accept some negative comments about this movie but one should admit that Tarnation was truly inspirational. It was like reading someone's diary, but it was on screen. It is kind of strange that no one has ever thought about this, but then again many people are not obsessed with camera and movies as Jonathan is. Whether you like Tarnation or not it is definite that it was unique, nothing I've ever seen on the screen. A film, a documentary, a diary, a poem to Jonathan's mother, a short look at the lives of teenagers during the 90's and most importantly a look at someone real, so real that you may have passed by him on the street. What effected me the most was that he is real. He is among us, he can even be your friend's friend. Seeing so closely how someone suffer was a great experience. I also think that this movie has created something none has ever done before. And it also reminded me that movies are all about life, whether they are fiction or non-fiction. Every character we see in movies may be real characters in life. The characters may have been fictional in Tarnation, but they are not. So this fact increased my love for the art of cinema and inspired me to continue shooting my short films. I have to thank him.


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