Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
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some things are better left top secret Based on the "unauthorised autobiography" of TV producer and Gong Show host Chuck Barris, this astonishingly stylish film also marks Clooney's debut as a director. And it shows such promise that it'll leave you looking forward to whatever he decides to do next, even though he'll have a hard time topping this quirky gem.

The film follows Barris (Rockwell) through several decades, as he gets his ideas for shows like The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game and lives a kind of freewheeling decadent lifestyle, eventually falling in love with his on-off companion (Barrymore). Along the way he meets a shifty CIA agent (Clooney), who recruits him and launches him on a secret double life as a wacky game show creator-host by day, top assassin by night. His main contacts are a femme fatale (Roberts) and an East German spy (Hauer), and pretty soon all sides of his life start to close in on him.

Clooney develops such a striking visual language for this film that it's amazing just to watch it, let alone immerse ourselves in the story, which is extremely engaging. This is due partly to Kaufman's drop-dead brilliant script, as well as a fantastic central performance from Rockwell that somehow combines Barris' zany presence with an even more intriguing man off stage. The use of music, editing, colour, film stock--everything works together marvellously, not only as an impressive film debut but as a deeply entertaining movie. Some of it does feel a bit over-directed; there are two too many bravura set-pieces. But it never peters out in any way, and the high level of quality is maintained from start to finish. The film is also loaded with surprises, from clever technical trickery to witty cameos and straight-to-camera testimonials from the real people in Barris' life. And eventually Barris himself. We knew this would be a fun film; we didn't know it would be essential.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Jan.03

dir George Clooney
scr Charlie Kaufman
with Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Kind, Dick Clark, Jim Lange, Jaye P Morgan, Murray Langston, Gene Patton
release US 31.Dec.02; UK 14.Mar.03
02/US 1h53

Domestic bliss. Chuck and Penny try to mave a semblance of a happy homelife (Barrymore and Rockwell).

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall