Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's documentary on growing up with his schizophrenic mother -- a mixture of snapshots, Super-8 film, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, and more - culled from nineteen years of his life.
When Oscar is fired, and her boyfriend walks out (taking the cat), she heads to a remote cabin in the woods outside a ghost town called TARNATION. Here she plans to reflect on her life ... See full summary »
Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
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
I guess I fall into the "art school gimmicks" camp regarding this film. I went into it intrigued with the idea of watching a 13 year tale of a mother and son. Such was hardly the case. I have to admit somewhat brutally, that this movie seemed somewhat exploitative. Given how much of the film was about Caouette growing up as a gay male, I fail to see how his mother's condition actually had a hand in it. Honestly she seemed to merely be a device (an unwilling one at that) to extend Caouette's angst well into adulthood where he otherwise seemed pretty settled and happy.
The structure of the movie was: shock the viewer with my mother's condition, now talk about my horrible angst ridden teen years, now bring mother back to keep the emotion going.
I was not at all impressed with the experimental/disjointed editing style. I've been to a fair amount of film festivals and, if anything, that sort of manipulation disappeared with the advent of affordable editing software. In short, they don't even do that in film school anymore.
One more disappointment: quite late in the film, we have an opportunity to hear about Caouette's mom from two people in Caouette's family. In one instance, the opportunity is totally wasted; nothing comes of his on-camera time. In the other (with his grandfather), Caouette's manner of questioning badgering and accusatory; he doesn't let the old man get a decent thought out.
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