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Confessions of A Dangerous Mind(2002) is directed by George Clooney and stars Sam Rockwell,Drew Barrymore,Julia Roberts and George Clooney himself. The film is an adaptation of tv producer Chuck Barris' autobiography where he claims to have an alternate undercover FBI agent career. My main reason of watching the film is different though!I am amazed by Charlie Kaufman's work as a writer and the screenplay happens to be written by him.
The film is about Chuck Barris's life and mostly focusses on his life when he acted as a t.v. show producer. The interesting twist is the fact that he was also contacted by FBI and also worked as a FBI assasin by night! The film follows him through the years, a journey accross years which makes him realise how he had spent his life,what his dreams were,what brought happiness in his life,what love meant for him. Its a rather unusual biography and credit certainly goes to the film-making team to come up with such a unique film. At times its so unique that they actually lose their focus! But when you are set out to make such a crazy film I guess some hits and misses are bound to happen. Some scenes don't add up and you wonder as an audience where the film is headed.
Like most of his films,Charlie Kaufman manages to create a world of his own.His alteration of fact with fiction is fantastic and will leave the audience amused. The screenplay has to be the strongest point of the film. Drew Barrymore stood out in terms of screen presence. The screen lights up everytime she comes on screen. Julia Roberts and George Clooney are both good. Sam Rockwell as Chuck Barris is convincing.The character is complex but Sam seems to understand the character well. I was pretty impressed with Clooney's direction- he was brave to direct it the way he chose to.
Confessions of A Dangerous Mind is weirdly good!
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is one of those strange little curios that Hollywood has the courage to churn out from time to time. Interesting, yet inconsequential, it tells the story of Chuck Barris, creator and presenter of several American TV Shows (including The Gong Show) who, in his memoirs, claimed he was also an agent for the CIA.
For British audiences, Confessions could run into problems straight away. Chuck Barris and The Gong Show are not that well known over here, so why should we care about his life story? Yet whilst it's true that the story perhaps has less immediate resonance or impact (and many references and in-jokes passed over my head), it's still well worth watching. Director George Clooney crafts a fascinating little tale that remains intriguing even if you have never heard of Barris.
The script is very well-written, introducing you gradually to the various characters, building them up slowly and sympathetically. Most importantly the film never tries to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Everything is left hanging and open to interpretation and this adds an extra compelling dimension to the film. Was Barris really a CIA Agent or just an attention-seeking individual trying to remain in the spotlight once his showbiz star had faded? Confessions never tells you what to think or what it believes; it simply presents various episodes from Barris' life and leaves you to decide for yourself.
Anyone familiar with the writings of scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman will immediately recognise his hand all over this script. It follows his usual style of chronological displacement, leaping around between past, present and future; mixing well-documented events with possible flights of fantasy. Some find this style highly frustrating and, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on Kaufman. His fractured approach to storytelling can be highly effective, but also rather gimmicky. Here, it's the former: Kaufman's unstructured approach to the character's story perfectly imitates the confusion in the mind of Barris (and the viewer) and the chaotic, arbitrary way he seems to live his life.
This will split audiences, though. The lack of a traditional, coherent narrative, quirky style and refusal to supply any real answers will result in a highly unsatisfactory experience for some. If you like films which have a neat beginning, middle and end then Confessions is probably something that you will particularly enjoy.
It's also very well-directed by the sickeningly talented George Clooney. For a first time director, he shows an incredibly assured hand, creating a genuinely compelling and convincing atmosphere, whether he is depicting one of Barris' shows or one of his "CIA missions". Shot mostly using muted colours, it complements the slightly melancholic feel to the script, without ever becoming too oppressive or invasive. When the script calls for it, Clooney also has the confidence to use a few camera tricks and "gimmicky" shots to use the camera to provide a visual cue and reinforce a point; splits screens are used to show both participants in a phone conversation, for example. Crucially, such tricks are used sparingly and appropriately. There are only a handful of them in the entire film, so unlike some directors (Tony Scott, I'm looking at you!), they never become annoying or distracting.
For a film such as this, the casting is crucial. Barris is essentially a selfish, egotistical man. Yet, it is also essential that the audience actually likes and sympathises with him... Enter Sam Rockwell, who pulls off a stunning performance. Able to convince as a tragic, lonely figure or as a manic TV show host, he maintains exactly the right mix of invincibility and vulnerability that the role demands. I have no idea what the real Chuck Barris was like, but on the basis of this portrayal, he was a fascinating, exasperating and slightly scary person! Like the rest of the film, Rockwell's performance fails to give any easy answers, playing both the factual segments and the possibly made-up bits in exactly the same way.
He is ably supported by a stellar cast. Julia Roberts turns up as a fellow spook and shows the world that she really can act; that the Erin Brockovich Oscar was not a fluke. George Clooney takes time out from behind the camera to put in a slightly mischievous appearance as Barris' CIA handler, whilst it's good to see Rutger Hauer breaking free of straight-to-video garbage, if only for a while! The only slight downside is the reliably annoying Drew Barrymore as Barris' long-time girlfriend Penny, who fails to bring much to the character other than an ability to giggle in a way which makes you wish you were deaf.
It's also true that the cast does feel a little "cosy" at times, as though Clooney has invited his showbiz mates to take part in his little pet project. This can give Confessions a slight air of smugness and leave the viewer with the impression that this is little more than a vanity project. Thankfully, the story is so well-told and well-acted that this is not too much of a problem, but there are times when you begin to wonder what Clooney's real reasons for filming this were.
At the end of the day, Confessions is an odd little film. It concerns a character who will not be terrible familiar with most UK viewers and nothing of consequence happens. If no-one had made Confessions, the world of cinema would be precisely no better, no worse. In one sense that makes the film pointless. Yet to dismiss it as such would be a shame. Confessions is an interesting, intelligent piece of film-making which shows that with the right script, the right actors and the right director, you can pretty much make a good film out of nothing.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Director: George Clooney
Running time: 115 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2009
If Chuck Barris was around today he'd probably be the man responsibe for television's "Big Brother", "Stars in their Eyes" or another of those awful shows which make stars of the very people who shouldn't get any airtime. You see, Chuck Barris was the man behind those American classics like "The Gong Show", "The Newly Weds Game" and "The Dating Game". So why on earth did George Clooney choose a bio-pic of this guy as the subject for his directorial debut? Surely there must be more to Chuck Barris than second rate television shows?
Of course, there is. Chuck Barris claimed in his autobiography (also entitled "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind") that at the height of his television success he was recruited as an assassin by the CIA. Although his claims are unsubstantiated they have never been disproved. Whether or not there is any truth to his claims this makes for a fascinating story which has in turn produced a fascinating and highly entertaining film.
The story starts as Chuck Barris is drifting from job to job. Chuck is a womanising guy with seemingly no commitment to anyone or anything. He gets a lucky break when he lands a job as a television studio guide - showing visitors around the studios so they can see how things work and how programmes are made. He has an idea for a television programme, develops it and then pitches it to the TV executives who, after some hard work on Chuck's part, go for it. This is just the beginning for Chuck. Almost overnight he becomes a huge star, dreaming up more and more ratings winners.
At the peak of his fame he is approached on the street by a CIA agent who tells him that he is perfect material to be a contract man for them. After a series of intense training sessions he is given his first murderous mission. He is able to travel abroad to carry out his instructions under the cover of his television show "The Dating Game" - the winning couple go on a date overseas, the destination always chosen by Chuck. It's often not anyone's idea of a dream date and the winners are often less than pleased with the location.
Barris is increasingly unable to handle the fame which he thought he always wanted. He finds himself unable to live two lives and the strain begins to show. Fired by the television company, he ends up in a seedy hotel trying to create some semblance of order in his life.
Or so Chuck Barris claims.....
Sam Rockwell carries this movie in his role as Chuck Barris. He portrays the at once self-loathing and self-important Barris perfectly. We see that Barris is constantly seeking the limelight, he is thoughtless and almost cruel to the long-suffering Penny but Rockwell manages to leave just a little room for sympathy. At the end his broken Barris is fantastic.
George Clooney plays Jim Bird, the stony agent who recruits Barris. He plays the part adequately, nothing remarkable but certainly a credible performance, sufficiently mysterious and authoritative. Rutger Hauer has a smaller role as Agent Keeler, again an adequate performance.
Drew Barrymore impressed (she does not usually) as Penny, a character towards whom I felt appropriately sympathetic. Julia Roberts played the role of the sultry agent Loretta and it was nice to see her do something a little different. She fit the stereotype of a sultry spy down to a tee.
I read Chuck Barris's autobiography before I saw this film and enjoyed it very much. I was interested to see how closely it would follow the book. When I heard that Charlie Kaufman, quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best screenwriters around, I was delighted. I loved "Adaptation" and "Being John Malkovich" and was desperate to see more of his work.
This particular film is a little different to the work Kaufman has become known for. It is really a straightforward story (admittedly an unusual one)
told in a pretty much straightforward way. His previous screenplays have involved the use of clever techniques of repetition or cinematic devices whereas "Confessions..." is told chronologically and directly. Much as I love his work I can see why some people might find it pretentious, "Confessions" could not be the target of this accusation. I would say it is the most accessible of his screenplays to date.
In the book, Barris claims that he answered an advert at college which led to him being recruited as a CIA agent. In the film he is approached out of the blue on the street. This is something which does nothing to enhance the credibility of Chuck's claims and, I feel, dramatically alters the story told in the book. Furthermore, the missions chosen to appear in the book are the most typically to do with Hollywood's idea of the CIA and espionage. There is no mention of the claims in the book that some of the missions required Barris to infiltrate human rights groups. This too, I feel, makes Barris look more of a pathetic self-aggrandizing loser - a man who claims to have been recruited to kill spies in Russia sounds more like a figment of the imagination than a man ordered to do undercover political work.
I struggled, too, to find the relevence in a scene close to the end of the film in which Barris has a flashback to his childhood in which it seems that there is some kind of indication that an event involving his mother may explain Chuck's behaviour. This came too late in the film to provide any justification to me - it reminded me of a children's story where the child ends abruptly with "and I woke up and it had all been a dream".
However, this is still an admirable piece of work and I was not disappointed.
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is one of those films which will cause endless debate after you've watched it. Is he telling the truth? I think so but I'm an eternal optimist. It really doesn't matter that this issue is not resolved. This is a highly entertaining film with something for everyone - espionage, a love story, a black, black comedy, a bio-pic, a drama. Even so, it loses nothing from being all these things. In his directorial debut George Clooney has achieved something to be proud of. The film is stunning visually moving from bright colour representing his days as a television host to bleak, sombre scenes as Barris breaks down.
Charlie Kaufman is fast proving himself to be a shining light in Hollywood and here has has shown he is capable of producing a mainstream screenplay as well as the quirky, off-beat films he has become known for. I look forward to many more to come!
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2003) is available on DVD (from 6.90 new and used through amazon.co.uk) and on video (at 3.99 Pounds from the same site)
Chuck Barris's autobiography "Confessions of a Dangerous mind is available, again through amazon.co.uk from 4.26 Pounds, new and used.
(Ebury Press, ISBN - 0091889111)
Showbiz autobiographies don't come any stranger than Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a fractured kaleidoscope of film styles--from sitcom to paranoid horror--accompanied by an infectious musical mosaic. It's based on a memoir by Chuck Barris--the mastermind behind The Dating Game (the format we know in the UK as Blind Date) and The Gong Show--which interweaves a fairly straight account of his toils in the television industry with outrageous fictions about his secret life as a CIA hit man. First-time director George Clooney takes Barris' bizarre book and--working with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who similarly mutated the truth in Adaptation--makes an extraordinary picture, with an awards-quality performance from Sam Rockwell as Barris. Clooney takes the secondary role of Barris' enigmatic boss, and there's sterling work from Drew Barrymore as Barris' ditzy regular girlfriend and Julia Roberts as an espionage dragon lady. It's an acidly witty film that consistently turns the tables on its hero and the audience. Priceless tiny gags include: a silent Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as contestants of The Dating Game and Barris coming up with the idea for a TV quiz show while half-listening to a CIA instructor explaining torture techniques. --Kim Newman