Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. 100
    A tale of sadness and hysteria so raw that it bleeds.
  2. 100
    Caouette has used art, wit and a huge heart to forge his experiences into an unqualified masterpiece.
  3. Harrowing, extremely disturbing at times, but brought to the screen in dazzling pop-art images that make the movie's grim content very much worth watching.
  4. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    A collage of pain that breaks over you like a wave. Every second you can feel the cost to Caouette of what he's showing: The sounds and the images are like a pipeline from his unconscious to the screen.
  5. Reviewed by: Meredith Brody
    It's something of a masterpiece: a confessional experimental documentary with echoes, both conscious and unconscious, of filmmakers from Andy Warhol to John Cassavetes, Stan Brakhage to David Lynch.
  6. 100
    It is a remarkable film, immediate, urgent, angry, poetic and stubbornly hopeful.
  7. Painfully beautiful autobiographical kaleidoscope.
  8. Layering soundtrack and visuals in an intricate collage of rich emotional texture, he (Jonathan Caouette) displays an exhilarating talent.
  9. Certainly one of the strangest and most interesting movies of the year, and I suspect that in years to come a number of other strange and interesting movies will show traces of its influence.
  10. 90
    Caouette lifts his story clear out of the victimized whine that bogs down so many confessional memoirs and offers the viewer instead an intimate look inside his ravaged yet loving head, at once street-smart and haloed by the naiveté of a young saint.
  11. A remarkable and remarkably compelling document.
  12. It is incomplete, contradictory, as multifaceted (and as brilliant) as a diamond.
  13. You may not want to hang with the haunted Caouettes, but the movie is so compelling, it doesn't give you a choice.
  14. Sometimes people grow up sane despite the best efforts of society to drive them mad. This is the case for filmmaker Jonathan Caouette.
  15. 88
    The result is a film that defies description. I'd call it some kind of miracle.
  16. Tarnation represents a breakthrough in the possibilities of the personal film as a mix of poetry and journalism. It's also harrowing as hell.
  17. Watching Jonathan Caouette's amazing autobiographical documentary Tarnation is like descending into a pop-music, underground-movie hell and heaven, the shattered and shattering landscape of a living body and mind.
  18. 88
    The movie is such an intense, disturbing and exhilarating experience, even five more minutes might have felt like too much.
  19. An astonishing multimedia diary.
  20. By all odds, Tarnation should have been an unwatchable, masochistic morass, but Caouette's love for the broken Renee--which is the true subject of the film--is awe-inspiring.
  21. 80
    Caouette's shattering Tarnation represents a landmark in personal filmmaking: It finally realizes the digital dream of a raw, unsanctioned glimpse into the soul.
  22. Reviewed by: Melissa Levine
    In this case, the subject and director are one and the same, and the result is a degree of intimacy--really of rawness--rarely achieved in film.
  23. Reviewed by: David Parkinson
    For all the courage and ingenuity of this extraordinary film, it's clear that Caouette has actually resolved few issues and that his life is still very much a work in progress.
  24. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    An impassioned documentary about a damaged American family, includes moments that seem to cross the line of what is emotionally acceptable to show onscreen.
  25. Caouette's fractured history is imbued with heart-crushing sincerity.
  26. One of those documentaries about a family train wreck that makes you wonder how people consented to have their tawdry laundry washed so publicly.
  27. Caouette has opened up a case history vividly, but he has left us without any conclusions, not even with much enlightening empathy. Something more than truth--dare one say "mere truth"?--is needed.
  28. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Getting so close to real-life mental illness, via footage that spans many years, renders Tarnation a uniquely potent experience.
  29. 70
    The movie is a daunting blend of head trip, cinéma vérité, music video, and auto-therapy.
  30. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    A bold, painful memoir that finds an innovative middle-ground between conventional documentary and a homemade, home-movie collage.
  31. 58
    I reckon that for everyone who's enthralled by the film there will be others who wish they'd heard about it rather than seen it.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 43 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 25
  2. Negative: 3 out of 25
  1. Jun 18, 2012
    This is the film I gaurantee you have never ever seen before and unavoidably, will stuck in your head for the rest of your life. The mostThis is the film I gaurantee you have never ever seen before and unavoidably, will stuck in your head for the rest of your life. The most powerful and inspirational piece of documentary feature and is considered,personally, to be the true triumph of the film's world.
    [Harrowing, Hopeful, Remarkable, Masterpiece!]
    Full Review »
    Oct 20, 2006
    What would you feel if you have the possibilitie of watch your life on TV?. This film is astonishing
  3. ShaunaT.
    Aug 9, 2006
    This film has some good moments, but it is unfocused. there are long surreal clips that occur simultaneously and often nonsensically. it isThis film has some good moments, but it is unfocused. there are long surreal clips that occur simultaneously and often nonsensically. it is not nearly a masterpiece, its too much of a mess. maybe its a critic's film, because i love unique and intelligent films and i was not turned off by the depressing subject matter, but i found this film to be amateur-ish and badly edited. some material was very irrelevant and self-indulgent. Full Review »