Bob Crane was a radio comedian when he was offered the part of Hogan on Hogans Heroes. Also an avid photographer, his favorite subject was the female form. He then met John Carpenter, an electronic technician, who introduced him to the new thing, video equipment. John was also a swinger, who turned Bob into a sex addict. And its this compulsion that would not only end his marriage but also make Bob virtually unhireable.
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This movie tries to capture the real life of Bob Crane, aka Col Hogan from Hogan's Heroes. It starts with his successful life as a Radio Jockey in LA with a family and three kids. It shows his success as Col Hogan in the hit show Hogan's Heroes and how it transforms his descent to the seedy side of life. Finally, the movie conjectures that Bob's friend John Carpenter could have been instrumental in his death. Greg Kinnear stars as Bob Crane and Willem Dafoe as John Carpenter, give a great performance. Greg does not do much to get into the role of Bob but William Dafoe transforms himself as John Carpenter and makes the role come alive. The storyline and scripting are sketchy and could have been beefed in multiple areas. The cinematography is excellent, changing lighting based on the mood of the movie. Editing is passable. As someone who grew up watching Hogan's Heroes, this movie reflects the seedy part of a man who was truly a hero to us. This movie is a OK movie but could have been better if at all they had focused on why and not on how did Bob live his life.Fred
I saw the North American premiere of Auto Focus at the 2002Toronto International Film Festival. I enjoyed the movie, but forsome reason, it played more like a TV movie than a feature. Iknow it's hard to make a biopic grand enough for the big screen,especially a biography of a TV star. And I give Paul Schrader fullmarks for trying. Still, the movie seems better suited to the smallscreen. It's a sordid tale, almost a morality play, and Greg Kinnearis terrific as Bob Crane, from his early days as a radio personality,to his rise to stardom as Colonel Hogan on the hit series "Hogan'sHeroes," to his subsequent fall and depraved final years, travelingthe country doing dinner theatre and picking up a different girl eachnight. He would take these willing women back to his hotel, wherethey would drink and party, and where Crane would photograph oreven videotape his ever more depraved sexual activities. Thewriters put most of the blame for his downfall, and his eventualmurder, on a character named John Carpenter, played brilliantly byWillem Dafoe. He's terrific as a sleazy, lowlife eager to useCrane's celebrity to fulfill his own addictions. The movie impliesthat had Crane never met Carpenter, that the husband and fatherof two would be content with his white bread life, never tempted bythe women and the drugs that were so available to him as a TVstar. That aside, the movie is pretty compelling. I hesitate to sayit's entertaining, because by the end it's almost painful to watch asCrane gets more and more desperate for new experiences, whilehis personal and professional lives self destruct. Still, it's like ahighway accident. You can't help but watch. I think this movie issuperficial, never really trying to understand WHY, instead simplypresenting a chronology of events. Schrader does get some greatperformances especially from Kinnear and Dafoe, and from MariaBello and Rita Wilson. And look out for Kurt Fuller as WernerKlemperer. He is amazing! Every time he finished a scene asColonel Klink, the audience applauded. Not a great movie, andSchrader has certainly given us better, but if you're interested inBob Crane, or in celebrity, then check it out.
What I read about this film does not seem to support this being an autobiography, at all. Am I missing something? Also, why would Scott Crane complain about the portrayal of his father, when he describes the man so critically in his former syndicated radio comedy show, Shaken Not Stirred? I have not seen the film yet. This is just a review of the Amazon page for it. So please ignore my rating. I just chose the middle, since there is no option to abstain.
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.
Before i saw `Auto Focus' which is the biography film on the life of`Hogan's Heroes' star Bob Crane, `I knew nothing' `I knew nothing' on whatwas a truly great film for 2002. But now, my mind is `automatically focused'on campaigning for `Auto Focus' to receive many Oscar nominations. `AutoFocus' is a picture perfect film! It focused on Crane's early career as aradio dj, then his limelight as the star of the famous 60's sitcom `Hogan'sHeroes', and then finally his sexual obsession which led to his demise.However, the primary premise of `Auto Focus' is the relationship Crane hadwith John Carpenter, an electronic video guru that got Crane obsessed withsexual orgies that they would videotape. Greg Kinnear's portrayal as Craneis `as good as it gets' when it comes to acting for 2002. I think theAcademy would not be doing a good `job' if they `blow' it and not nominateKinnear for a Best Actor Oscar. The brilliant Willem Dafoe was alsomarvelous as Carpenter, who was Crane's `shadow of a monster'. It is also no`secret' Ron Leibman's performance as Crane's `agent' also deservesaccolades. I warn you this is not `the feel good film' of the year. However,Director Paul Schrader's focus on Crane's sexual obsession is one that will`stay in your head' for days, and will make you `cum back for more'. Youdefinitely `auto' see this masterpiece of a film!***** Excellent
I have wanted to see this film for some time now. Who didn't love Bob Crane as Col. Hogan on Hogan's Heroes? As a child watching the show in syndication, Crane seemed to be an exceedingly cool and funny actor. As I got into my teens, I learned of Crane's gruesome death and the mystery surrounding it, and I had trouble figuring out how something like that could happen to such a seemingly great guy. More time passed, and I began to hear stories about Crane's lifestyle, activities that I could hardly picture the man taking part in. All of this left me wanting something that could put all the pieces together, to show me the true Bob Crane and place his death in its proper context. Auto Focus attempts to do just that, and I understood that many critics praised the movie. Having now seen it for myself, I have to agree that it is a very impressive film that works on a number of cinematic levels. Does it answer all of my questions about Bob Crane and his death? I don't know. What you get with Auto Focus is one interpretation of the final fourteen years of Crane's life, but who is to say what really took place in Crane's private world. Obviously, the man had some serious issues and flaws, enough to qualify him for the label of sick if not depraved in my book, but this movie seems to push too far, showing us private moments that no one alive today can verify or disprove. Thus, I do not consider Auto Focus a true biographical portrait of Bob Crane, and I worry that it does further damage to a reputation the man himself seriously destroyed on his own.Auto Focus follows Crane's life and career from his disc jockey days in 1964 to his six-year run on Hogan's Heroes to the troubled years then leading up to his death. Initially, he comes across as a clean-cut, sweater-sporting, all-around good family man, but the seeds of doubt and trouble are soon sown in his wife's discovery of pornographic magazines in the garage. As his time on Hogan's Heroes begins, he seems to still be cultivating the image of a "good" man, one who refuses both alcohol and cigarettes. Then of course fame begins to change his life, and the many young women who flock around him let his barely-contained sexual beast out of its cage. His new friendship with video technology guru John Carpenter is the worst thing that could have happened to him, as Carpenter soon gives him the keys to the perverted sexual paradise Crane had obviously fantasized about for some time. Up to this point, Crane had still been salvageable as a decent human being, but his moral weakness soon asserts control and leads Crane into a life of total debauchery that he was shameless enough to document on film and video. When his career bottoms out, the tailspin that would lead to his brutal demise was all too apparent. The cinematography of the latter part of the picture was really effective; unusual, sometimes unstable camera angles and shots reinforced the image of Crane's life falling apart more and more quickly as time passed.John Carpenter was an individual I knew nothing about going into this film. Clearly, he was a rather disgusting individual who held a strong and uncomfortable hold over the rest of Crane's life. This film, in my opinion, goes a little too far in the direction of blaming Carpenter for Crane's mistakes, though. It seems clear that Bob Crane alone is responsible for the way he lived his life; he never did anything more than talk about making a lifestyle change, even after the demise of two marriages, his relationship with his four children, and his total alienation from everyone but Carpenter. The recreation of his murder is good up to a point but could have improved. I do not think the true force and viciousness of the attack as shown matches the actual event, and I have to question why the scene showing his body's discovery by a fellow actress was deleted from the final cut. The movie does implicate one suspect in particular, and I have to question this because, while I think the prime suspect was indeed the murderer, the film's presentation precludes alternate theories of what remains an unsolved mystery.The DVD is excellent; there can be no question about that. Alongside the film itself, you get no less than three separate commentaries, a making-of featurette, five deleted scenes, and a lengthy documentary on the actual murder. Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe are excellent in their roles of Hogan and Carpenter (although I saw much more of both men that I would have liked, if you know what I mean). I was also amazed at how truly Klink-like Kurt Fuller was in his portrayal of Werner Klemperer. In the final analysis, Auto Focus is an impressive motion picture, but at the same time it stands as a questionable biography and dramatization of Bob Crane's life and death.
Like many Hollywood productions, 'Auto Focus' takes liberties with the truth. On one hand, it's not documentary film; on the other hand, it's not roman a clef. It's not historical. What type of movie is it, then? It's 'biographical'-- fact glued together with speculation-- and that makes it risky, much in the way that 'Malcolm X' and 'JFK' were. So far, so good. Hollywood's been crying out for risk-takers ever since Frank Capra's 'You Can't Take It With You', a successful anarchist comedy, won Best Picture. The problem here isn't one of historical inaccuracy. 'Auto Focus' simply isn't compelling. Director Paul Schrader puts so much emphasis on Bob Crane's sexual peccadilloes that he neglects to remind us why we cared about the story in the first place: Hogan's Heroes was inspired stuff. Sure, it was campy! It was also groundbreaking, controversial and well-written. The characters were distinctive, there was great on-screen chemistry and it was just plain FUNNY. We don't get that from Schrader's film and it's a shame. [N.B.: A Hogan's Heroes montage, left on the cutting room floor, is included in the extras. See it. Those few seconds would have improved the movie tenfold.]To understand its shortcomings further, one needs to look at 'Auto Focus' within the framework of the director's career. With screenplay credits like 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull' and 'The Last Temptation of Christ', Paul Schrader has shown that he can bring passion to tough treatments. 'Auto Focus' ought to be a perfect vehicle for him' tense, violent and sordidly perverse. Is its failure a sign that he should stick to writing? While no 'auteur', Schrader is a very good director. He's never developed a style, per se, relying instead on a Douglas Sirk cum Nicholas Ray blend of social melodrama (e.g., 'Blue Collar', 'Hardcore', etc.) His results with biographical cinema, however, are mixed. 'Mishima' is the best of this part of his work; 'Patty Hearst' is a disaster. Then we have lopsided efforts like 'The Comfort of Strangers' and 'Witch Hunt', films marked by an icy detachment. How do we explain the inconsistency? Schrader didn't write them. He didn't write 'Patty Hearst' either, as a matter of fact. And while 'Auto Focus' is a passable script for a first timer, it isn't award-winning material and, once again, it isn't Schrader's.The biggest problem with Michael Gerbosi's script is proportion. What begins as a simple Jekyll and Hyde piece loses focus at some point' grasping for something else to say and coming up empty-handed. Much of the footage between Crane's second marriage and his tragic death could be removed without damaging the integrity of the narrative, and this comprises nearly one-third of its length. The homoerotic syzygy that John Carpenter and Bob Crane represent may have been exciting to Gerbosi as playwright, but on the silver screen' it just doesn't work. It works flawlessly in Sunset Boulevard, but, where Crane may be a kind of Joe Gillis, Carpenter is no Norma Desmond. It works in American Beauty, but, where Carpenter may be a kind of Frank Fitts, Crane is no Lester Burnham. No, what you have here are two moderately intriguing lowlifes, locked in a fatal embrace for most of the picture' each dragging the other into swingers' hell.Also absent are the establishing shots and broader character development that separate the seventh art from the stage. The claustrophobic, egocentric 'Citizen Kane' got around this through the strength of its Mercury Theater cast. In place of exterior shots, Welles gave us Kane's retinue for context. Auto Focus is virtually all Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe and while lightly peppered with capable 'bit' players (e.g., Ron Leibman, Kurt Fuller and Ed Begley, Jr.) remains a bland, household recipe. I knew Werner Klemperer personally, and it's a pity that Fuller isn't allowed to do more in portraying him here. Werner had a wonderful acerbic sense of humor, indescribable and lost forever with his death. Based on his accounts of Crane, the movie delivers an excellent depiction of the man's hypocrisy... a conservative, 'Christian' family man with a world-class libido. Werner said, "On the surface, he seemed a gregarious fellow, but, underneath the facade, he was antisocial and troubled... a social/antisocial, so to speak." This film's too-tight 'auto focus', unfortunately, fails to place this psyche in its proper milieu.Kinnear's self-loathing narcissist is on the mark, and I have to give him kudos for that. He even managed to copy many of the actor's mannerisms and speech patterns. It's brilliant work. If at times he lacks some of Crane's smugness, we can forgive him. His 'likeable' version says more about human nature than the off-putting original did. I've heard 'Auto Focus' compared to 'Boogie Nights', as if Crane were as naive a patsy as Dirk Diggler. This is simply false, and it does a tremendous disservice to Paul Thomas Anderson's ampler work. At its core, 'Auto Focus' isn't a decent man's descent into dissolution. It is an unholy union, predicated on superficiality, which turns ugly when one partner opts out. When ultimately Carpenter wins the struggle, Crane posthumously exonerates him. Yes, we get it, already: They are halves of the same whole. The 'reject-me-and-die' syndrome. This is 'Star 80' all over again, an embarrassingly apologetic portrait of murder.
I love biopics and this one is one of the best I've seen. The story of BobCrane, even if you aren't too familiar with Hogan's Heroes, is engrossingand the cinematography plays well with it. It starts out as a crisp, cleansit-com like atmosphere with bright colors and geometric patterns and thendevolves into a dark world of bars and apartments, hand held, shaky camerasand jumbled action.The acting is top-notch, especially Kinnear and DaFoe as a sick team ofthrill seekers. Throughout the film Kinnear plays Crane as constantlydenying his obsession, which could only work with an actor so well known forhis good-guy roles. DaFoe is creepy, much like his Green Goblin inSpider-man, at one point understanding the next vindictive and bitter. Crane's son is trying to discredit the film on his website (which oddlyenough exploits his dad's life by selling glimpses to the treasure trove ofpornography that Crane produced in his life), but for the most part I feelhis protestations are ungrounded. Sure, the film was over-looked by theAcademy but it doesn't mean that the movie isn't worth watching. Well worth buying, or at least renting. As far as biopics go, this could beone of the best.
This movie is the story of Bob Crane's rise to fame from radio to the star of Hogan's Heroes. The movie also shows his decline into deviant behavior with a friend John Carpenter. Although the murder of Crane has remained unsolved since the 70's, Carpenter seems to be the main suspect even though he passed away from a heart attack. So the movie examines Crane's life and shows what we know to be true and what may have been his demise. I like the way the film was shot, from the candy colored 60's, the movie falls into the 70's and Crane's behavior continues on a destructive path and the colors of the film become less vibrant, more muted and muddy. Also the camera angles are shaky and tight in the 70's as compared to the spacious and clean cut 60's shots. Greg Kinnear is amazing and completely Bob Crane. Kinnear is truly one of our mosted gifted actors. When the movie recreates Hogan's Heroes all the characters are there and so perfectly portrayed. Willem Dafoe is excellent as usual in such a creepy guy role, but he is so good at that. The DVD extras are plentiful. There's three sets of commentaries, deleted scenes, and a making of featurette. Also the most interesting feature is a documentary called "A Murder in Scottsdale" which analyzes the true crime scene and investigation with the officers, detectives, and others that were there. Overall this is excellent entertainment that will satisfy your curiousity and be thoroughly enjoyed.
If you were fond of Col. Hogan of "Hogan's Heroes" AUTO FOCUS willeither repulse you or entertainingly enlighten you. Paul Schraderdirects this dramatization of Robert Graysmith's book "The Murder ofBob Crane". To say the least Crane is a man obsessed with sex and thephotographic image of sex. Greg Kinnear plays Crane the laid back discjockey that enjoyed himself paying homage to famous drummer Gene Krupa.His marriage to Anne(Rita Wilson)hits the skids after she finds girliemagazines in the family garage. Crane's manager(Ron Leibman)convinceshim to take the role of Col. Hogan in the TV series Hogan's Heroes.There he met a future wife Patricia Olson(Maria Bello)and a man thatwould alter his very life...John Carpenter(Willem Dafoe). Carpenter isa tech geek who boasts selling prototype video tape recorders to LyndonJohnson and Elvis Presley. Carpenter introduces the life of stripclubs, party girls and swinging...which Crane loves capturing onprototype recording devices. After Hogan's Heroes is canceled Cranecontinued playing drums in strip clubs and tried to make a living doingDinner Theater. Strangely enough he lands the lead role in the Disneymovie SUPERDAD. Wanting to turn his life around he tries to getCarpenter out of his life. In late June of 1978 Crane is found murderedin his Scottsdale Arizona apartment. Carpenter is the first suspect;but the crime goes unsolved.
Let's face it - everyone who was in the packed theatre last night in WestHollywood where I caught Paul Shrader's latest delightful descent intodementia (and aren't they ALL delightful, in his hands) was there for onereason and one reason only: to experience the sheer voyeuristic thrill ofwatching a one-time famous television star systematically self-destruct in ableary haze of sordid sexual depravity. It was fun, huh? You gotta admitit - Greg Kinnear as infantile attention-crazed porn freak drummerextraordinaire Bob Crane was adorable, wasn't he? The most endearingpervert depicted in film possibly ever, and Willem Dafoe was his perfectcounterpart - the ultimate scuzball, gleefully wallowing in sleazebucketslime (with his vtr equipment dangling profusely). Yes, I liked the film,and yes, I think they should all get Oscar nominations. Hail to theColonel.
Flash! Click! Whoosh! A ring-a-ding-ding open worthy of a rat packer,complete with 1950s starburst and boomerang wallpaper patterns as atmospherebehind the totally nonsensical music. Already we're in trouble here. The film opens with our hero, a very ordinary husband/actor with asuccessful radio career, already fully grown; habits established, traumasduly recorded in his psyche. We are then shown how he lives out hisneuroses, acting and re-enacting scenarios obviously very counter to hisoutward demeanor and verbalized values.OK, the guy likes to watch. Likes to take dirty pictures and was a pioneerhome user of videorecording. SO WHAT??? From this a feature film does notmake!!!Unfortunately, Schrader basically eviscerated that which is probably themost crucial and critical to forming the personality who would later engagein all this prurient activity: HIS BACKGROUND.Seeing as few of us are born with our perversions and actually acquire them,a la R. Crumb, in childhood from mixed and confused psychological messages;then how could Schrader leave out the missing link which would have givenmotivation to the Bob Crane character?Don't even get me started about the "accents" of the ersatz Hogan'scohorts--it's hard to believe that in all of Hollywood, actors couldn't befound resembling Werner Klemperer or John Banner who could do a respectableGerman accent.Yeesh. When the best thing about the film is the fourth or fifth lead (inthis case, Ron Leibman), then something's wrong.
Done in the vein of those cable behind the scenes documentaries, the story that unfolds is not that unique or even surprising. We sort of know what is going to happen to Bob...the fame, the obsession ( sex ) so complete that to him it seems normal, the concurrent decline in career, all hell breaking loose...WHat makes the movie "fun" is that the performance of Kinnear and Dafoe remind us of the capacity for self destruction, even when the cards dealt seem a winning hand.IT is almost comedic, in a sad way, the precision with which the boys go about their after hours entertainment, with humorous looks at the new stuff in home video, introduced to Crane by his buddy John ( the Sony Betamax). There is a lack of tension in a story that really is not a story...the predictability made acceptable by the chance to look at the crash. The movie almost seems to be entirely about Bob's sexual versus job performances, and At least you can say that it has a sort of guided percision in that sense...the movie IS in focus.Dafoe in particular is excellent, and Kinnear portrays convincingly how obsession of any kind can lead to ruin.
I found the first hour of this movie to be very uninteresting and boring.Itwas so boring that 3 members of our group walked out. It would have been4but my wife was asleep. It got a little better later on, but not much.Totalwaste of time to see this. It said nothing and left me with the question"SoWhat, Who cares." I couldn't believe that Ebert gave it 4 stars. He mustbelosing it. I would give it 1 star as the acting was indeed very good.
Actor Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), star of Hogan's Heroes, forms afriendship with a video enthusiast (Willem Dafoe) and together theybecome obsessed with sex, swinging, and photographing or filming theaction.This is a brilliantly disturbing movie. Kinnear carefully plays Craneas a blank-faced cypher who cannot see himself, and is comfortable withthe surface of things. Thus photography is the perfect obsession forhim; he can look without participating, even when he's looking at hisown participation. Auto Focus is a clever title, referring to both thephotography and the only person upon whom Crane can focus. He is lostin a world of obsessively meaningless behavior.A look at IMDb's message board for the film shows that one of Crane'stwo sons is fighting the misinformation presented by director PaulSchrader and Crane's other son. It does seem that the movie distortssome biographical facts, but what biopic doesn't? This story ofobsession and doom is worth much more than its attention to one man'sbiography.
Greg Kinnear does a fine job as real-life actor Bob Crane (star of thepopular TV series "Hogan's Heroes"), a complicated man who quicklybecame immersed in the sordid world of pornography. Seems it all startswith the strip club...just one of the many clichÃ©s and precautionshanded down in what amounts to Paul Schrader's demon-exorcisms.Schrader is a director who can't let anything be simple; he's soham-handed in his approach that we can't tell if he wants us tosympathize with Crane or with his poor family (he even throws in afantasy sequence wherein Bob's wife gives him a terse blessing ontaking advantage of a nude broad). Tricks like this don't work inautobiographical movies--we can easily see it's just the directorfeeling his oats--but the '60s period is captured well and Kinnear ishonest and direct. Willem Dafoe is probably miscast as sleazy friendJohn Carpenter (Dafoe doesn't have the right voice or manner for atimid villain, and he's strenuously reigning himself in). *1/2 from****
This is a film along the lines of Boogie Nights, in the sense that it iswithout question well made, but it may not make you feel good. It's astoryof Bob Crane the real life star of Hogan's Heroes. The film chroniclestherise of the sitcom, but more interestingly tells the story of Crane'ssexualaddiction. In addition we learn of his bizarre relationship with JohnCarpenter, played by Willem Dafoe. Dafoe is a grade A looser who is notexactly a ladies man, but he is on the cutting edge of video technologyduring the 60's and 70's and quite a salesman. He introduces Crane tothistechnology, they form a friendly association and Crane a better lookingsmoother operator with the ladies, allows Carpenter to pick up his scraps.It is a very odd, realistic and disturbing union the two have. Theirrelationship and it's baggage ruins 2 marriages for Crane and possiblyproved fatal to his career. It makes for an interesting film and equallygood conversation afterwards, as you may want to debate whether thisrelationship cost Crane his life, as he was murdered in a Scottsdale motelroom in 1978.
Bob Crane's better known for how he died than what made him famous."Auto-Focus" tries to fit both sides of his life into one movie, and theresult is one unwieldy concoction, not a mess exactly, but never a veryinteresting movie.Greg Kinnear projects some of Crane's Middle America appeal, and remainsauthentic even as he falls into the depths of Crane's post "Hogan's Heroes"career, a nightmare world of faceless orgies and dinner theater in whichCrane nevertheless seemed able to function with a strange degree ofdisembodied aplomb. Willem Dafoe is tailor-made for the creepy companionrole of John Carpenter, a professional hanger-on who escorts Crane toswinging affairs to get a piece of the action on the side, and maybe alittle piece of Crane, too. Will Crane do what it takes to get his career ontrack, namely by dropping Carpenter and his seedy sexcapades? And willCarpenter handle any such change with grace, or homicidalrage?You know how it ends. And this movie takes too long to get there. Oneearlier poster here had it exactly right: "The E! True Hollywood StoryWithout The Story." The Crane murder case has been a subject of morbidfascination for me, and it seems many others, too, but its not exactly aShakepearean tragedy. As a character study, it has its moments, but there'sa lot of unnecessary connecting the dots: Here's where Crane meetsCarpenter. Here's his problems with co-star Richard Dawson (who's laughablymiscast, by the way.) Here's his second marriage. Here's Crane's failedattempt at a movie career, "Superdad." These aren't exactly culturalmilestones, so the placid, accountant-like way the film moves through thesemoments calls attention to its cookie-cutter, by-the-book mentality.Director Paul Schrader was drawn to the sex and the debauchery, but hedoesn't care that much about the characters, and it shows. You need empathyto make a film like this work.Here's what I would have liked. A film that focused on the last few years oreven months of Crane's life, well after the end of Hogan, with himstruggling with his excesses and his regrets. A tone like "Hard Eight,"seedy dives and loose women playing on his weaknesses and his flabby ego.(The book this is based on, Robert Graysmith's "The Murder Of Bob Crane,"draws a lot on his last days, and the Carpenter angle is just one of severalgripping areas explored.) Make the murder and its surrounding circumstancesmore central to the story. We still know how it ends, but it could have beenmore involving getting there.Ultimately, I don't know if the film would have been good however it wasdone. Pointless murders don't make for great stories by themselves. Thisneeded something more that just wasn't there.
Not since George C. Scott went searching for his wayward daughter amongthe denizens of the Hollywood porn industry in 1979's Hardcore hasdirector Paul Schrader made as sexually explicit and lurid a film asAuto-Focus , except this time he has produced a much better picture.Hardcore opened with scenes of a seemingly typical American familyembedded in the virtues of their staunch Calvinist faith ; in astunning dramatic reversal , the family's all - American daughtersuddenly disappears and the austere father ( superbly played by Scott )spends the rest of the movie trying to find his daughter in a seedyHollywood Heart of Darkness. Because the screenplay never explained whythe daughter traded her "Norman Rockwell" - type life for a hellishexistence in Tinsel Town , Hardcore was robbed of much of it's drama.The movie actually became unfocused because the daughter remained anenigma.The t.v. sitcom actor Bob Crane was also an enigma. No one really knowswhat led Crane to pursue the path that inexorably led to his sad andtragic demise. The star of the inexplicably popular P.O.W. World War 2comedy series Hogan's Heroes , which ran from 1965 to 1971, Cranestarted his show business career as an affable and very popular radiodisc jockey. Portrayed at the beginning of the movie as a loving familyman and doting father , Crane was apparently a devoted churchgoer,fairly steeped in his Roman Catholic faith and on a friendly speakingbasis with the local pastor.Not completely satisfied with his niche in the world of t.v. sitcoms,Crane envisioned himself as the next Jack Lemmon. Handsome and likable,Crane was an expert charmer and at Hollywood parties knew how to "worka room". But his fate seemed to be sealed the day he met one JohnCarpenter (not the famed film director!) on the Hogan's set , asalesman in the early, burgeoning videotape recording industry. WhenCarpenter invited Crane to his home to demonstrate the new technology ,the seeds of destruction were firmly plantedUsing the new, rather unwieldy video equipment , Crane and Carpenterproceeded to tape innumerable sexual encounters with women they wouldpick up at bars and strip joints. Crane and Carpenter became regularsat these nightspots, with Crane often sharing the stage with the band,demonstrating his talent as a drummer while various strippers performedtheir acts. Endless nights would end with the two men taking women backto motels or Carpenter's home for orgiastic sex, all recorded forposterity on videotape. It's truly and sadly ironic that Bob Cranewould finally get his wish ; the stardom that eluded him in life is nowgarishly on display for anyone who cares to see his real life , decadesold sexual exploits.Of course Auto-Focus is not real life. It is only a movie, but it doesa terrific job of simulating the short rise and dilatory fall of a oncetalented actor with great promise who threw it all away for a prodigallife of promiscuous sex. What very well could have been a sleazydepiction of one man's sexual addiction is instead a sobering,cautionary tale of over-excess. Director Schrader doesn't flinch fromshowing the taped sex sessions ; they are graphic enough but he wiselymakes them fleeting. More important is the strange, ultimatelydestructive relationship between Carpenter and Crane. This was acomplex friendship to say the least, one that depended on Crane's fameto draw women into his video lair, the other dependent on Carpenter'stechnological know-how to make the two men's sexual fantasies a videoreality. When Bob Crane decided that perhaps he was tiring of thislifestyle and needed a change , he upset Carpenter's apple-cart in abig way : the movie's denouement is both sad and ugly . AlthoughCarpenter was exonerated of any wrong-doing, the film has its ownstrong opinions.Auto-Focus cannot be described as an enjoyable movie. Its subjectmatter pretty much precludes that from being possible. It is anexpertly made picture that is immeasurably enhanced by two spectacularperformances. Gregg Kinnear is uncanny as Crane. Without resorting toany of Crane's mannerisms, he is able to evoke the easy-going , laid-back persona of Crane's t.v. Hogan in the recreated comedy scenes, buteven more importantly he makes a convincing real-life Crane, runningthe gamut from early, content family man ; the successful comedy seriesactor ; errant husband and nightlife swinger and ultimately the spentand jaded sycophant at film's end. Equally impressive, and trulyfrightening, is Willem Dafoe as Crane's disturbed friend. Bothvulnerable and vicious, Dafoe imbues his character with enoughcoloration to make Carpenter recognizably human and not a totallyreprehensible bad guy. The first rate art direction and set designplunges the audience back to the 60's and 70's and the music (aneclectic mix of period pop songs and an ominous Angelo Badalamentiscore )adds to the evocative atmosphere. Auto-Focus is a fine ,disturbing piece of work.
He's written Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation ofChrist, and Bringing Out the Dead. Scorcese directed all of them,and did a damn good job of it. Paul Schrader did NOT direct thesemovies, and for good reason. He is, to be perfectly blunt, avegetarian director -- his movies have no meat to them.Auto-Focus is no exception. Although there are stabs at artistryhere and there, Schrader does little to flesh out the story. Thedecline of Bob Crane plays like a flip-book flipped far too slowly.Each element of Crane's movie life (regardless of what isfictionalized) exists fully as a snapshot. But there is little morethan paste holding the snapshots together. There is nodiscernable psychological continuity to create complete person outof so many events.Greg Kinnear as Crane does not help matters much. His rigidity isreminiscent of Tom Cruise's performance in Eyes Wide Shut --yes, it makes the viewer uncomfortable, but is such superrealismhelpful to a biopic? Kinnear is a good actor, but his Crane is a farworse actor than the real Crane on his most monodimensionalday. The film result is a man who appears uncomfortabletwenty-four hours a day, yet consistently maintains that his lifestyleis normal and should be perceived as such. A static, contradictarycartoon, the same at the beginning of the film as he is in theend.That being said, do do DO see this movie for Willem Dafoe. Helends the movie just enough acting brilliance to keep aquality-conscious filmgoer in his or her seat. (And keep an eye outfor his next project -- the Keith Richard's Story... jokey...)