Tarnation

Monday, October 18th, 2004 | Film

Well, Tarnation disappointed me a bit. Yes, I was very moved by Jonathan’s story, but his narcissism bugged me after a while, and all those iMovie effects for effects sake. Still, a wonderful film, with some very inventive editing and an aura of contained wildness perfectly suited to the subject matter. A key moment occurs when Jonathan bugs his grandfather, practically about to keel over, about his mother’s memories of child abuse. The grandfather shrugs him off at first, and then gets upset, and tries to leave, but Jonathan presses the fragile old man, as if in denial of his mother’s mental state, or fearful of his own fate. Last week I saw the brilliant The Fog of War, a documentary from a parallel aesthetic universe. It terrified me, how a few men could affect history so profoundly. You see McNamara being bulldozed over by LBJ, unable to influence Johnson’s course, just as in Tarnation the helpless Jonathan is dragged through abusive foster homes and his mother through a “treatment” that, in his eyes at least, leads to her disintegration.

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