July 11th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

And to move it away from the meta just a hair:

If you’re feeling morose and unhappy over the sort of spam you’ve been getting lately, it’s definitely a good idea to not watch “Capturing the Friedmans until you’re feeling a little better.

It’s a documentary about a family that went through the father being found out as a kiddie porn consumer, and the subsequent trials he and his son went through for a massive number of child molestation charges. Adding to the creep factor is the fact that the family happened to be compulsive home movie makers, and the sons were more than happy to train a camera on arguments as they all unraveled under the stress.

Most of the reviews (to edge meta again, in another direction) caught what I did: Disentangling the chaos and confusion of a pedophilia witch hunt driven in part by “recovered memories” along with the rather large entanglement of the father’s very real pedophilia is a nearly impossible task.

Where “Paradise Lost” seemed happy to push the viewer into a few conclusions that differed radically from the trial outcomes, and even circled back around to finger a suspect of its own, “Capturing the Friedmans” prefers to hang back. There are a few moments where the cops who presided over the hysteria are allowed to contradict what the viewer can plainly see on screen, and there are some juxtapositions of informative subtitles against spoken word that point to contradictions and problems with the prosecution. But the documentary never makes a case. It contents itself to document the family coming apart, then offers only a small sense of very personal resolution at the end.

That refusal to render final judgement has driven a few reviewers to distraction, but it makes for a more challenging film that resonates for a while instead of ending up filed under “outrage about which we’re piqued but unable to change.” It’s superior to the “issue film” it could have become. But it’s a tough one, too.

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