Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
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If you check on the commentary for "Capturing the Friedmans" you can see that many novella-length dissertations have been posted on that film, and there's not a heck of a lot more to say about it. "Just a Clown," however, is included on the DVD edition of "Capturing." and much less has been written about it. It was the film that Andrew Jarecki started out to make, which led to his larger and more famous opus.
I regret having seen this very short film right after having viewed "Capturing the Friedmans," the power of which completely overshadowed the content and intent of "Just a Clown" for me. It was, of course, completely impossible to see David Friedman, AKA Silly Billy, out of the context of "Capturing the Friedmans." I was a bit incredulous that Friedman's Silly Billy act constituted the very pinnacle of the children's party clown business, though. To me his act looked the least interesting of any of the characters in the film, his professional persona seeming to have been put together with a bunch of random stuff from joke shops and thrift stores. Then again, I'm not a 7-year-old, and maybe that's high art to a 7-year-old. I just got the impression from the film that his success is more the result of organizational skills than creativity, and it's certainly more efficient to throw on a pair of oversized glasses from the dime store a second before knocking on the client's door than to deal with wigs, makeup, etc. David's edgier "Dr. Blood" act, which he came up with for the very practical purpose of keeping the slightly older kids' families on his client list, certainly seems more interesting, with more potential for his mass media ambitions. Anyway, David seems to know what he's doing, and you can't argue with success.
It's been speculated, though, that "Capturing the Friedmans" may be harmful to David's career, and I fear that may be true considering the light it casts on his family background combined with the nature of David's business. Unfair, yes, but perhaps inevitable.
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