Confessions of a Dangerous Mind [Blu-ray]
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Charlie Kaufman has proven to be a screen writing genius. Shortly after his work on Being John Malkovich and the same year as the release of the ingenious Adaptation, he adapted game show host Chuck Barris's autobiography for George Clooney's directorial debut. Like most of Kaufman's other major works, it's intelligently written and highly entertaining, but it lacks the headiness of the aforementioned titles, taking a more straightforward interpretation of the already strange character. Clooney made quite a splash with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a stylish, often funny, but darkly serious recounting of Barris's claimed double life as the creator of many popular game shows and a CIA agent starring a brilliantly insane Sam Rockwell.
In the 80s, Barris's life was in shambles, his shows had all been canned, and he was living in squalor, a self imposed exile from the outside world. The only way out seemed to report to the world every dark secret of his life in the form of an autobiography. So, he started writing, and as he recalled each event, we see first hand how his life played out. He worked on “American Bandstand”, wrote a hit pop song, made a few pilots for TV shows, was approached by the CIA to become an assassin, got his first hit TV show with “The Dating Game”, and had continued success with others like “The Newlywed Game” and “The Gong Show”, which he hosted himself. During his successful TV run, he took the life of 33 human beings. His double life and multiple relationships took a tole on him, and upon the cancellation of his TV shows, he had a mental breakdown.
Interspersed with the fictional account of Chuck's life are a variety of real life interviewees who worked with him in TV, like Dick Clark (from “American Bandstand”) or The Unknown Comic (from “The Gong Show”). Despite the CIA making a statement that Barris never worked with them, the real life element brings an air of mystery to the entire story. Whether some of the story was fabricated or not, it makes for some highly entertaining cinema. In the leading role, Rockwell is an excellently eccentric mad man with employment A.D.D. He runs from project to project, country to country, often with game show winners in tow to secretly murder criminals on the low for the betterment of America. Giving way early on is his self sabotaging tendencies, and lack of self confidence despite his very public persona. It's a bizarre story, but what's more insane is that the real life Barris claimed to have actually lived it. Also making appearances in the film are Clooney as the CIA recruiter, Drew Barrymore as Barris's longtime friend and lover, and Julia Roberts as a double crossing agent, all of which are perfect for their roles.
Miramax and Lionsgate have once again come together to release a lively Blu-ray release for this vibrant film. The visuals found throughout are highly processed with extremely saturated colors and effects, but what is found on screen here looks very clean. Fine detail is intact and blacks look quite good throughout. Aurally, the DTS-HD 5.1 track sounds quite fantastic with a wide array of surround filling effects and audio depth. The disc has plenty of extras with a commentary track featuring an enthusiastic and informative Clooney and Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. They speak on a variety of topics, one of the more interesting though is how and why they chose so many visual effects. There is an over 20 minute behind the scenes featuring interviews from the cast, as well another 20 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Clooney and Sigel. Sam Rockwell's entertaining screen test's are also included, along with a set of fake “Gong Show” acts that were cut from the film. A short feature on the real Chuck Barris is also on board. The disc comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case.
Whether you grew up with “The Gong Show” or you've never heard of the guy in your whole life, Chuck Barris was a bizarre cultural icon with a deservingly equivocal biopic that has his signature awkwardly animated energy. Clooney's debut feature is a powerhouse of style and proof of his legitimacy behind the camera. This new home edition of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind comes highly recommended for both content and technical specs.
--Jordan M. Smith
Release Date: November 1, 2011