Movie: Tarnation

Our Rating: 4.00

"Unease" is too mild a word for the feelings you'll experience upon opening this Pandora's box of a family history proffered by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Caouette. Unsettling music, sound/image dissonance and other deconstructive techniques lend a sinister edge to still photos and home movies from Caouette's personal collection; as reassembled here, they depict one clan's decades-long struggle with a dysfunction most of us only have nightmares about. The true-life story includes episodes of shock therapy, rape, drug abuse, psychosis and paralysis – most of it endured by the director's mother, whose now-fractured psyche is the sympathetic centerpiece of this 90-minute stream of avant-garde consciousness. Yet the doc places equal emphasis on the deleterious effects her prolonged ordeals had on her son, making the project as much a personal exorcism as a tribute. Undeniably compelling, it's proof of the therapeutic potential of filmmaking, but also of our limitless propensity for morbid curiosity.

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