Auto Focus (2002)

PAUL SCHRADER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BB.5

USA, 2002Focus Puller Inc., Good Machine, Propaganda Films.  Screenplay by , based on the book The Murder Of Bob Crane by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by New York Film Critics Awards 2002.    Toronto International Film Festival 2002.

Paul Schrader has once again delved into the seedier side of life in this marginally successful biopic about Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), most famous for his leading role on the television series Hogan’s Heroes. What most fans didn’t know about him until after his mysterious murder in the mid-seventies was that he was an obsessive amateur pornographer. The film starts out with his early days in radio, followed by his fame on the series, through to his friendship with technical whiz John Carpenter (not the filmmaker) who first provided Crane with the equipment to film himself having sex with countless women. In the meantime, Crane was also married twice and had children with both wives (played by  and ). Schrader tries to make a statement about Crane’s gargantuan sexual appetite not being as freaky as people have tried to make out in the years after his demise, but what is most obvious (and seems to be left in the back of the director’s mind) is that Crane’s appetite became a destructive obsession, eventually destroying his marriages, his career and estranging him from his own children; the attempt to blame Middle America’s narrow views of sexuality for Crane’s misery holds about as much weight as Milos Forman’s trying to turn Larry Flynt into a free-speech pioneer. Kinnear successfully breaks down the good-guy image we’ve come to expect from him, and Willem Dafoe is strong as Carpenter, but the pacing lags and for such a racy story it’s an incredibly dull movie.

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