7.2/10
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115 user 73 critic

Tarnation (2003)

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2:22 | Trailer

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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 ... Herself
... Himself
Adolph Davis ... Himself
Rosemary Davis ... Herself
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
See more on IMDbPro »

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

Features Zoom (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

This Little Light of Mine
Written by Harry Dixon Loes
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User Reviews

 
An embarrassingly narcissistic journey through a shallow landscape.
11 September 2005 | by See all my reviews

It amazes me that so many people seem to equate emotional instability with depth. They are not the same thing...as this vain movie so vividly proves. Not unlike Jonathan, I was a gay kid growing up in the south with a profoundly disturbed mom who had several electroshock therapy treatments while I was in my early teens. It was a frightening time. Over the years, though, I've learned that by shifting my focus outward, away from myself, soulful living can and does happen. By contrast, Tarnation strikes me as a celebration of arrested development. Jonathan knew he was different early on. He was extremely creative, energetic, and observant. However, he chose to turn all focus inward and worship his own magnificent ego. His destiny was sealed and his ambition fueled. In spite of the fact that our culture is currently obsessed with all things lurid and sensationally evocative (regardless of the source), I have the sinking feeling that one day Jonathan will regret having used his family on such a grand scale (if he doesn't already).


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