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tarnation

TARNATION

My iPod just did it again.

I was cycling back from the cinema in town and humming the achingly beautiful melody of Rufus’ “The Consort”. When I got home, fetched in the washing from the dark garden and went upstairs to put it on the bed, I thought I’d like to listen to some music. Putting on the shuffle of the whole library – that’s 11.7 days worth of music – the third track it played was “The Consort”. Is still playing in fact.

More beautiful New York boys this evening in Jonathan Caouette’s “Tarnation “. Broken, nervy, cross-dressing, abused, but beautiful. I absolutely loved it. It’s an extraordinary piece of self-dramatization. Nearly 20 years of filming himself and his brain-damaged mother and his possibly abusive grandparents. Then edited together by his 31 year-old-self.

Watching it you constantly think – “how could he film his mother like that?”, “how staged are his tears, his breakdowns, his freak outs?” – but somehow that extreme self-staging is part and parcel of the Big Brother, reality tv age we live in. What’s extraordinary that his footage dates back from the mid 80s. I mean how many 11-yea-olds had video cameras back in the mid 80s? Let alone filming themselves in a chillingly mimetic performance of a woman describing her abuse at the hands of her husband?

But then how many highschool kids in Texas get to stage musical versions of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet?

Although the film hit Sundance in 2003 and has been all over the world it’s only just arrived in Britain – I say ‘only just’, it’s been out a month and I ‘ve only just got round to seeing it. But then I’m a great believer in seeing things when you’re meant to. Good art is always a little bit of chemistry between the subjective moment of viewing (slightly in love, aching from the gym, sitting next to Gill) and the objective artefact of the thing (Tarnation). So I found the stability Jonathan finds with his boyfriend, David, in NY really touching and I was conscious of Gill’s worry about her mother as Jonathan’s mother, Renée, deteriorates on screen. Mostly I was moved by the fondness of it. The by-line was cute: your greatest creation is the life you lead. I came out of the cinema feeling electric with wide-arching, plans to recreate London and fill my life up with glugging emotions and bruised loves.

And what a beautiful puzzling word: tarnation.

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