Critique: ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ (2002)

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Directory of World Cinema: American Independent 2, edited by John Berra, published by Intellect Books, 2013

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is an adaptation of an autobiographical novel in which the author, Chuck Barris, claims to have been operating as a covert operative for the CIA whilst creating and presenting various American lowbrow smash-hit television shows, such as The Gong Show and The Dating Game, in the 1970s. However, besides Chuck’s well-selling testimony, there is no real evidence to corroborate his darker adventures outside of the world of show business.

The screenplay is written by Charlie Kaufman – the creator of Being John Malkovich (1999) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) — and in many ways Confessions of a Dangerous Mind feels like a ‘typical’ Kaufman film. There is a creative central protagonist that is troubled by spiralling bouts of self-contempt, has an innate inability to create and maintain a successful relationship and then finds himself retreating into a type of fantasy world (fictional, or otherwise) where he can finally become the self-styled hero that ‘saves the day’.

As with all of the central characters in Kaufman-scripted films, Chuck Barris is uncomfortable simply being himself, and the book and script are both successfully ambiguous in intimating that the CIA story may have possibly developed out of Barris’ insecurities as a type of coping mechanism.

Nevertheless, the George Clooney-directed film, has stripped a lot of the uncertainly away to assert…

 

The full 850 word version of this review is published in Directory of World Cinema: American Independent 2, edited by John Berra, published by Intellect Books, 2013. 

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