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TARNATION

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In a perverse yet highly watchable form of therapy, thirtysomething filmmaker Jonathan Caouette creates his own autobiography -- a trippy mish-mash of home-video footage, snapshots, film clips, various sound recordings and songs -- all tossed together on his home computer. Such a self-indulgent, deeply personal venture might not have worked, but for the grim horrors -- presented in deadpan titles -- of Caouette's youth (a mentally ill mother, foster homes, drugs, suicide attempts, rages) that make his very survival compelling. The openly gay Caouette finds refuge early in acting, new wave and goth culture, music and filmmaking -- and remarkably, he manages to draw strength from his unquestionably screwed-up family, with whom he maintains close contact. Tarnation is raw and at times unfocused, but its strange flicker draws you in -- and you may even find the film, despite its air of frantic desperation, inspiring. Harris

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