DIY Cinema

Really nice Sight and Sound article by B Ruby Rich about Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation (on DVD May 17) that discusses the film’s fascinating mix of documentary and autobiographical cinema. Rich also connects Caouette’s films to the New Queer Cinema of the early 1990s, especially Sadie Benning’s very cool Pixelvision films, noting that Caouette has avoided the documentary label, calling his film “DIY cinema,” while citing influences ranging from Derek Jarman and David Lynch to Spike Lee and Sidney Lumet.

One more day until Spring Break. Then I’ll probably sleep until Monday.


  1. Mel Said,

    March 19, 2005 @ 8:17 pm

    did you ever get to see Tarnation? I haven’t read the Rich article yet but it looks interesting.

  2. Chuck Said,

    March 19, 2005 @ 8:48 pm

    I haven’t seen Tarnation yet, but my enthusiasm just for the *concept* of the film (autobiographical cinema? superlow budget?) indicates to me that I should pay attention to these interests. Rich’s article makes the film sound utterly fascinating.

  3. Jennifer Said,

    March 20, 2005 @ 8:07 pm

    I haven’t seen the film yet, either–but I agree, it sounds brilliant. It’s difficult for me to imagine someone interrogating their life at such a young, relatively speaking, age. Wasn’t he 31 when the film first came out? And then imagine putting that interrogation, that exploration, up on screen for anyone to see. For most of us, the media (reality television, esp.) is our only look at the psychological state of individuals (the ways in which a person copes with love, loss, etc.) and this film seems both painfully intimate and yet highly stylized/artistic. It’s that level of the film that I’m interested in exploring, but the whole wave of autobiography, domestic ethnography, and the exceedingly personal as filtered through visual media is really fascinating.

    Thanks for pointing out this article, Chuck.

  4. Chuck Said,

    March 20, 2005 @ 9:03 pm

    I’m reworking a paper I’ve written on Capturing the Friedmans right now (my Spring Break task), and it seems to tackle some of these questions in a much different way, especially since the images they’ve filmed are now re-framed by the film’s director, Andrew Jarecki. I’ve heard Jessie (the son who was convicted alongside his father) say that once you become a convicted criminal, especially in such a high profile case, that the public-private boundary more or less disappears. I’m not sure yet how that kind of logic might apply here, but this is a very long comment to say that I share those interests.

  5. Jennifer Said,

    March 21, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

    Sounds like convicted criminals and celebrities share the same fate. Capturing the Friedmans goes one step further with, as you mention, the reframing of the home video by the director. Yet, it seems that the older brother–and I can’t remember his name now–is a force in constructing the family image. How much control did he have over the footage and the creation of the documentary? And then there’s the curious fact that the father is now dead and not able to comment (except in absence) on the events that transpired. Reminds me a little of Inside Deep Throat (not a bad documentary, though it never really seemed to go “deep”–no pun intended–into the many facets surrounding the production of the film (apparently, there were Mafia ties, etc.). In fact, the film seems to set up a number of its participants for entertainment sake. To get to the point, though, Linda Lovelace and her husband are no longer alive–and aren’t they the crucial actors in this drama? But, and I’ll stop with this last tangent :), I just recently saw In the Realms of the Unreal–and here’s a film that tries to capture and present a person/persona without really suggesting a totalizing representation. Perhaps this is what makes Capturing the Friedmans (what a great title!) so neat–that as the cliche goes, you’re not left with any definitive answers. Ok, enough.

  6. Chuck Said,

    March 21, 2005 @ 1:25 pm

    I think that Jarecki allowed the family to view the film before he released it, but he seems to emphasize that he had more or less complete control over which images were used in the film. David, the oldest brother, did have some control, especially over the videotaped images, but the father seems to have been behind the camera for the Super 8 stuff. Arnold’s “absence” is interesting, though the journalist, Debbie Nathan, serves as an interesting stand-in for him, telling “his” side of the story. I have to amdit that I’m ambivalent about the lack of answers, at least on the legal level because it may have real-life effects on Jesse’s ability to work, interact with others, etc.

    I’ve been procrastinating on seeing “Inside,” because I’ve heard that it’s pretty superficial. I know that Lovelace more or less said that she was an unwilling participant (again, a noticeable absence in this narrative). With “Spring Break” this week, I may try to catch the film before it leaves Atlanta.

    My second biggest movie regret in recent months is missing “Unreal” when it played here for a few days. It was poorly advertised and described, so I skipped it. Yet another film where I’m counting down until it hits DVD.

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