Auto Focus (2002)
Bob Crane shot to television stardom in the 1960s as the star of the television series Hogan's Heroes. However, while he was enjoying the life of a TV star, he was simultaneously delving into dark territory in his personal life - sexual promiscuity and deviance. Auto Focus tells the story of Bob Crane as a tragic cautionary tale of the dangers of excess.
When the film opens, Bob (Greg Kinnear, in a fantastic performance) is about to hit the big time, and is a loving family man who doesn't drink or smoke. He attends mass on Sundays. One day on the set of Hogan's Heroes, though, his life begins to take a bit of a turn when he meets John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), a techno-guy with all the latest gadgets, including video equipment, which fascinates Crane.
"Carp" opens the door for Bob to unleash his inner desires, which both excite and frighten him. It begins innocently enough, sitting in on the drums at a strip club, but eventually Bob loses all self-control and ends up making pornographic videos of his exploits and frequently "swinging." All the while Bob refuses to admit that there's anything wrong with him; if you ask him, he'll tell you he's just a normal guy.
After Hogan's Heroes came to an end, Crane took a job with a dinner theatre show, which allowed Crane and Carp to take their liaisons on a traveling show. As Crane's indiscretions get worse, his personal life deteriorates, as he divorces two wives (played by Rita Wilson and Mario Bello).
Auto Focus has been expertly directed by Paul Schrader, who begins the film with bright, glossy colors, then as Crane goes deeper and deeper into his obsessions, the colors fade and the camera becomes unstable, just as Crane does. Kinnear gives the performance of his life, showing us an uptight man who is afraid of his sexual demons turning into an uptight man who lets them take over his life.
February 3, 2005