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Houston Voice, July 2, 2004
File 021
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Houston Voice, July 2, 2004 - File 021. 2004-07-02. University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. December 16, 2017. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/2139/show/2130.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(2004-07-02). Houston Voice, July 2, 2004 - File 021. Montrose Voice. University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/2139/show/2130

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Voice, July 2, 2004 - File 021, 2004-07-02, Montrose Voice, University of Houston Libraries, accessed December 16, 2017, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/2139/show/2130.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Voice, July 2, 2004
Contributor
  • Crain, Chris
  • Fisher, Binnie
Publisher Window Media
Date July 2, 2004
Language English
Subject
  • LGBTQ community
  • LGBTQ people
  • Gay liberation movement
Place
  • Houston, Texas
Genre
  • newspapers
Type
  • Text
Identifier OCLC: 31485329
Rights In Copyright: This item is protected by copyright. Copyright to this resource is held by the creator or current rights holder, and the resource is provided here for educational purposes. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without permission of the copyright owner. Users assume full responsibility for any infringement of copyright or related rights.
Note This item was digitized from materials loaned by the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum (GCAM).
Item Description
Title File 021
Transcript 20 JULY 2, 2004 www houstonvoice.com HOUSTON VOICE I cover story Tarnation' gets special showing in Houston TARNATION, continued from Page 1 "Tarnation," the documentary of his troubled life that he shot, produced and edited for a total cost of $218. Honors at Los Angeles were preceded by an 8-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and the label "masterpiece," given the film at Sundance. Along the way, Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchel, the star, writer and director of the cult classic "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," signed on as executive producers. Critic Roger Ebert made "Tarnation" the centerpiece of his "Overlooked Film Festival." Part documentary part Punk-Rock-art- house-stream of consciousness, Tarnation follows Caouette through 2 decades of life experiences that would have killed most people. The film is dominated by a bizzaro world filled with his mother's struggle with mental illness, his adopted parents (Adolf and Rosemary, actually his grandparents) surreal day-to-day life and his own brush with insanity caused by smoking two PCP-laced joints. "Tarnation" is a raw. ravishing, funny, sad and painfully honest walk in someone else's shoes. Every moment is right there: his tearful reaction to his mother's lithium overdose, his search for his unknown father, his mother's years of shock treatments and her rape by a stranger that he witnessed, his meeting and falling in love with partner, David (pronounced Dah-veed). The audience at Aurora, many of them friends, watched stunned, realizing they knew someone, but they didn't really know him at all. Insanity overwhelmed the audience. Some were unsure whether it was OK to laugh at such tragic images. They needed only to look at Caouette, who howled at times as he watched the insanity that was his life. "Tarnation" is a diary splayed open for all to see, a scrapbook of memories The Houston Voice had the rare opportunity to sit down with Caouette and his friends after viewing the film, set for a fall release across the United States. When he sat down to talk about his film, he explained that even though he had 20 years of raw, real movie footage, his first thoughts were of producing a fictional account of his life. Caouette: Originally I had written this 97-page screenplay which was me, my boyfriend, David, and my mother, Renee, under these completely imaginary circumstances living in our New York apartment. The structure of the film was basically "Rosemary's Baby." It was going to be an elongated "Twilight Zone" episode. I was in a place where I was in a real safety net zone about it. I wanna use all this footage I have but I'm really scared to give myself away. I don't know if I want do this, to go on this cathartic, exorcism journey So I wrote the screenplay and I wanted to incorporate all the things you see in "Tarnation" now as flashback and flash forward sequences. HoVo: You were looking to do that as fictionalized people? Caouette: Completely. I was going to show the 11-year-old-me, but he was a character based on me, and a character based on Renee, and I was going to cut it in a way where I used the actual footage of us, but our names were never referenced. Then I got really fatigued with the idea and then realized one day that the screenplay and the footage were two totally different entities. God forbid if it had turned out that way HoVo: Would you trade those life experiences, and therefore this experience for just a nice, normal life with your mom growing up? Caouette: No. I'm really glad I went through everything I went through because this wouldn't have happened. If anything, at the end of the day, this is a great film that's going to hopefully change some lives. Even if this movie can allow people to have more empathy for the mentally ill, and not simply round them off to the nearest scumbag or drug addict. HoVo: Something most people seem to take away from your film is that it's a love story. Caouette: It is a love story HoVo: How do you edit your own life? How did you go through 15 or 20 years of your own life and decide, well this scene doesn't work? Caouette: That's where the filmmaker overrides everything else. HoVo: The filmmaker in you? Caouette: The filmmaker in ME. That's where the really disassociative aspect comes into play I don't know how I did it, I was able to step back and objectify everything. I have always disassociated myself from my nuclear family, whether I was half listening or tuning them out or, most importantly, by videotaping. HoVo: By being behind the camera rather than in the moment? Caouette: Yes! By being sort of scared, or realizing this is so freaky and crazy, I HAVE to videotape this! This is gonna come in handy one day. HoVo: Is that why you started taping? If you have it to look back on it you can figure it out? Caouette: Well, it's a diary, why do you keep a diary? It's to look back and reflect and hope to make some sort of sense of it. That was my sole objective when I started. HoVo: In the same vein, how do you edit the actual soundtrack to your life? You use Low, Nick Drake, Marianne Faithful and all these amazing pieces of music. How do you put the final stamp on it and let it go? Caouette: I literally started with a song and worked my way out, cutting to the emotional resonation of the song. HoVo: Do you hear songs in your head often? Caouette: All the time...I'd think OK, what needs to go over the cello, because when I feel like my heart is being pulled out and stomped on, what do I need to put up there to make that work and match that up? That's the whole idea of "Tarnation." Jonathan Caouette (left) and his (partner, David Sanin, were in Houston recently for a special screening of the documentary, 'Tarnation.' (Photo by Dalton DeHart) HoVo: Whats up with that title? It's not said in the film. Caouette: Well it's implied...I almost wanted to have my mother say it. You know it's a form of damnation...hellfire and tarnation. It was never said organically so I never manipulated it to happen. It's also the name of one of my favorite bands, a band that never got the attention I thought it deserved, so I thought it'd be great name for the film. HoVo: Some people have called you a gay hero. As much as that is a compliment, the film transcends sexuality Caouette: Well, let me tell you, there was some hoo-hah at the Roger Ebert Festival. One of the first questions I got, some guy stood up and said, "What do you think about this being a gay film, and you being gay and introducing yourself to the entertainment industry as gay...and don't you think that being gay is a disease?" And Roger Ebert stood up and shredded the guy It is so besides the point. HoVo: In "Tarnation" when your father, whom you have sought out, asks you on the phone, "Are you Gay? You sound Gay... .you don't have AIDS do you, cause I don't want anything to do with you if you do..." That was rough, very gripping and sad. Caouette: And that was in the first 5 minutes of our conversation. HoVo: Yet, you were big enough to ask him to visit you at your home with your partner David and Renee Caouette: I just really wanted the opportunity to be around my parents together in the same room after 19 years. HoVo: And watching the film, clearly the love of lip-syncing & performing really runs in your family. Your mom loved to lip- sync...even some of your earliest shots. Caouette: I know. It must be in the genes. HoVo: The lip-syncing part of the film is so amazing, to actually see Visions again. Do you remember the other clubs? Caouette: BJ's, Nitecage, Visions, Pearls, Pillows HoVo: The lip-syncing wasn't gender specific. Caouette: And it was not about drag HoVo: It was something else entirely Caouette: We were like the third sex or something. Wow! It was like this window, this vacuum that existed for a brief period of time, did what it needed to do to everyone, everybody got what they needed... HoVo: And then it disappeared! Caouette: I don't know what it's like living in Houston now, but that time was probably one of the only times, when there was a window when you could be anybody you wanted to be. You could be gay and 12 years old and be in drag and getting into these nightclubs as a Goth girl, or whatever. It was such a free time...brief but free. I mean 1986 & 87? HoVo: A movie like "Tarnation" is powerful, raw and really touching. Even if someone didn't know you before, it is devastating in a way Is that why you put the text in the film in the third person? Caouette: That's why I had to separate myself. The text in the original version was actually a character, along with Renee and I. You know I made the film in sequential order, from beginning to end, just like you see it. Totally organic. And in a way, the film has its own breakdown. HoVo: What do you see when you're watching the film for the 50th time? Caouette: This is my mother and me having a good time. It's precious and sacred and I know the film can occasionally be dark and insane, but my mother and I really are having a good time. (It is at this moment that an important call comes in for Caouette,). Caouette: I have just won Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival over "Fahrenheit 911!" (The room erupts in applause.)
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