Tarnation - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tarnation Reviews

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May 12, 2017

A joruney through a troubled life has never felt so appropriate for its exposure as a documentary film.
June 28, 2016
Watching this made me feel like a combination of trusted personal confidante and intrusive stalker, but it is probably one of the best accounts around of living with someone who is traumatised and mentally ill. The story is biographical, and told entirely through photographs and home movies, and is written and narrated by the subject's son. The story is told from his perspective.
½ May 22, 2015
Although at times it feels as if Jonathan Caouette is overdoing it all for the camera --- that actually shines an even more intense psychological light on everyone captured in this documentary. It feels exploitive, but that is one of the reasons it all the more devastating.
½ August 17, 2014
Stunning and Ambitious... Tarnation is overwhelming with nostalgia and a heavy tone of sentimentalism.
½ June 15, 2014
Because the film is so personal, so fully made with sentiment, Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation comes out as a complex, raw, angry and arresting film about its own director.
November 29, 2013
Found myself liking this film the more it progressed.
Super Reviewer
June 17, 2013
Bits of unbearable information brought to us by Jonathan Caouette, a man who truly has had a horrific lot in life. It results in a deranged drug user who captures all of his grief through home movies and other forms of media to shock the viewer.
March 16, 2013
Not as good as it's blown up to be, kind of irritating at times.
½ February 14, 2013
A surreal and unique documentary that is hard to take your eyes off of.
February 2, 2013
Anyone who has lived a fantastical, dismal life of clawing your way out of inherited *crazy* will appreciate this magical film.
½ January 16, 2013
Tarnation uses various mediums in presenting it's story and is unique and works well.
December 7, 2012
Tarnation, Jonathan Caouette's self-reflexive, autobiographical experimental documentary that uses acoustic and dissonant music, similarly dissonant editing, and a combination of home video, evokes both the impermanence of memory and bliss, and Caouette's desire to overcome adversity as a gay man who grew up in an abusive context. While the heavy use of music and jarring sound effects may initially be read as overly emotionally manipulative, the combination of this music with the collection of home video, which is spliced together in repetitive, flashback-like fashion, achieves successfully an aesthetic that parallels a stream-of-consciousness mechanism, highlighting the temporality of life and memory. Caoette's impressive collection of home video, including one of him as child improvising a monologue of woman in an abusive relationship, captures poignantly his adverse childhood experiences as inseparable from his mother's experience with mental and physical abuse, that indeed, his mother and all of her baggage, is seared into Caouette's identity. While the heavy use of textual narration may be read as an oversimplified method of providing information that uses a voice-of-God type of narrative, it is effective in this film because it mirrors a scrapbook aesthetic. The narration is not a voice-of-God, rather, it is Jonathan's grown-up voice, attempting to piece together and preserve the kernels that defined his coming-of-age.
November 16, 2012
TARNATION is one of those films that will stick with you the rest of your life! You will never forget this endearing yet tragic story of a son' s love for his mother.

Not just because I happen to know Jonathan, but this film has earned a spot on my ALL TIME BEST MOVIES LIST! What Jonathan Caouette has done as a film maker is somewhat unprecedented and definitely GROUD BREAKING, and it really is something special! And what Jonathan has done as RENEE'S SON is just some kind of AMAZING! This film really makes you take stock of your life and those people around you.

VISUALLY, although merely edited on iMovie , this film IS STUNNING TO WATCH. The visuals along with an AMAZING SOUNDTRACK, make this movie somewhat HYPNOTIC! The story is hypnotic as well, just an overall MESMERIZING FILM.

This film is a VERY RARE EXAMPLE of an AMERICAN film maker taking on the serious topic of MENTAL HEALTH with such a genuine approach. AMERICANS tend to like sugar coated versions of what it means to be truly mentally ill. TARNATION, should be and actually has been HIGHLY COMMENDED for it's uncensored and raw approach in making the viewer in some small way almost know what it's like to be mentally ill.


Jonathan just finished up at CANNES and numerous other festivals all around the world showing his NEWEST FILM ---


----- the follow up (sequel) film to TARNATION. Keep your eyes open for it too. It is getting critical acclaim already!

Jase Hardison
Photographer NYC
November 1, 2012
Tarnation is effectively personal and excellent composed into a disturbed, tormented reality that of a troubled child and through his upbringing. It provokes audiences in positive and negative ways and never hesitates.
½ November 1, 2012
Now, i thought i was tough minded enough. No....not even close
October 24, 2012
An amazing and original quasi-documentary...heart wrenching.
October 14, 2012
amazing film! like nothing I have ever seen!
March 4, 2012
This film is not for everyone. Very personal. Worth watching if you like experimental cinema.
½ February 16, 2012
This movie is fucking shit!
½ February 9, 2012
A film that leaves a sick aftertaste, not because of the shady life story though, more because of the myopia of our filmmaker Jonathan. The gruesome intertitles are meant to be taken as gospel despite glaring implausibilties. The same for the clearly acted sections set in current day as well as his heartbreaking to-camera monologues that we have already seen him dramatising his entire life for fun. The ending sees our drama queen protagonist bully an old man, his own Grandfather who raised him himself, accusing him of abuse only substantiated by a mentally ill woman. A vile film, by a vile little man, obsessed with one thing. Himself.
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