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Tuesday May 17, 2005

Do you ever want to tell everyone about how much your life sucked? Just make a really dark, twisted, crazy documentary and shop it around! Put that footage of your dysfunctional family to good use, and make money while you're at it!

"Tarnation" is Jonathan Caouette's version of his life. Billed as a documentary of the history of his mother's mental illness, it's more of a "Look at what I've had to deal with, doesn't my life suck? Oh, and my mom's crazy but look how well I've dealt with it" film that, although edited to make you feel the insanity and chaos that was their lives, leaves you with more questions than answers. Unsettling and lacking in substance, I would have preferred a Discovery Channel documentary on dementia and depression.

Unless you don't read well, and therefore missed the information and history presented on screen in words, you can watch the film with the Audio Commentary by the Director/star/writer, Jonathan Caouette. Slightly more self-indulgent (if that's possible) than the film itself, it at least gives a bit more detail about how his "vision" was realized, how it was originally meant to be a docudrama (what is in now?) and ended up as a documentary. We also learn there will be another film -- either an extended DVD or a sequel.

Other Special Features include Bonus Tracks (mostly footage of him at a younger age), a photo/video montage and a Poster & Trailer Gallery.

Why this film was beloved by critics around the world is beyond me. As an independent film junkie and documentary lover (as well as coming from a dysfunctional family with a mother suffering from mental illness) I failed to grasp the true point of this film. It was well made, but not unique, better as a study of the style of Gus Van Sant.

For an alternate view on the film, read Kilian Melloy's review here on EDGE. As for me, my advice is to skip it.

-- Jason Salzenstein

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