Film and TV

Flick Pick

While Jonathan Caouette's extraordinary documentary Tarnation has given hope to aspiring directors (famously, it was initially shot and edited on a Macintosh for a couple hundred dollars), what has startled film-festival audiences across the country is not so much the method, but the madness: A mélange of old home movies and photographs, answering-machine tapes, freshly shot video and interviews, the movie is an agonized and relentlessly urgent attempt to understand the grave mental illness of the filmmaker's mother, Renee LeBlanc (a schizophrenic who submitted to more than 200 shock treatments) and the pain it brought to an entire family. Addicted to drugs and contemplating suicide, the adolescent Caouette somehow fought back the demons and in his early thirties began work on this chronicle of terror and trauma, in which we see a troubled son constantly reinventing himself in an attempt to cope. The advent of the home video camera and wide-ranging computer technology may be giving rise to an entirely new form of documentary, but it takes a filmmaker as observant and committed as Caouette to make the most of these opportunities.

Tarnation screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in Muenzinger Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, as part of the school's International Film Series. For information, call 303-492-1531.