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Overall Rating
3.36

Awesome: 7.25%
Worth A Look: 37.68%
Average40.58%
Pretty Bad: 13.04%
Total Crap: 1.45%

8 reviews, 21 user ratings


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Auto Focus
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Auto erotica"
3 stars

Actor Bob Crane, genial star of the WWII prison camp sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," was murdered in 1978, and the ensuing media blitz rapidly uncovered a grimy tale of sex, lies & videotape. Crane was exposed as a tireless swinger who spent decades filming his sexual encounters. (You pragmatic types out there can literally see for yourselves on the website Crane's son has set up: www.bobcrane.com.) "Auto Focus" traces his rise and his long, ugly fall, when those voyeuristic escapades finally overtook Crane. But it's a surprisingly tepid movie, and in the end it has no real insights to offer.

It's a commonplace that Paul Schrader is a better writer than director, and Auto Focus will do little to improve his reputation as a helmsman, though this film is more consistently watchable than most of his past efforts. Schrader presents his subject (played by Greg Kinnear) as something of a feckless innocent--cheerful, eager to please, and about as deep as a petri dish. A chance meeting with techno-nerd John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) introduces him to the wonderful new world of home video, which he soon ties in with his mania for porn in all the ways you'd expect.

Crane blandly narrates his tale from beyond the grave, a la American Beauty, and in fact Schrader seems to have borrowed a few other moves from that film, like its general contempt for bourgeois existence. It's probably no coincidence that the first half of the film, beginning with the intentionally dopey credit sequence, rather strongly resembles a TV-movie; at one point, Schrader even resorts to a cheesy inward spiral visual, the sort of effect you see on bad sitcoms, when Crane lapses into a daydream. I think the style is intended to reflect what Schrader sees as the essential shallowness of Bob Crane, who never appears to be anything but a mindless middle-class drone. Also a hypocrite: While Crane tells a reporter about his spotless family life, Schrader presents us with a montage of Crane's extra-marital frolics.

This is the basic problem with Auto Focus: the movie has only one thing to say about Bob Crane--he's shallow and hypocritical--and says it over and over. Neither Schrader nor screenwriter Michael Gerbosi bother to delve much into the psychology of addiction. What they do instead is hold up Crane as an object of scorn. This, they seem to say, is what you get for being such a tedious twit.

Late in the film, Schrader resorts to handheld camerawork, which becomes progressively shakier as Crane's life falls apart. I think Schrader tried here to portray Crane as a victim of his own voyeuristic inclinations--the viewer sees Crane as he increasingly saw himself, as the subject of handmade films. But as a directorial gimmick, it's awfully intrusive, and doesn't really have the intended effect; you just sit there wishing the frame would stand still for a few seconds.

Script-wise, Auto Focus is well-paced but uninspired, and marred by heavy-handed attempts to suggest that Crane and Carpenter may have been more than just friends, e.g., when Crane tries to end their partnership, Carpenter remarks that he's treating him like his wife.

The film's lack of nuance is costly. Ironically, it suffers from the same fault it imputes to Bob Crane.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6234&reviewer=223
originally posted: 11/16/02 17:41:57
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/18/14 Ofmnzhuz This is perhaps the best selling female artist from Barbados to receive Jesus. White and se 2 stars
2/13/14 WDXsCnPgcSFqvb sverige.txt;1 3 stars
9/04/09 RLan Good performance by Kinnear but the movie could have been better. 3 stars
10/29/04 ODH This flicks was funny and at the same time well acted. Bob Crane was one sick puppy!!! 4 stars
5/29/04 Suzette Kinnear was fantasitc!! 5 stars
2/24/04 tatum Supporting cast disappears, but Kinnear and Dafoe are excellent 4 stars
1/25/04 Patricia Rohr Great Performances. A film about a guy who used his position to get laid. 4 stars
1/11/04 Atanu Great review by chris parry 4 stars
1/09/04 Jack Sommersby Watchable, but there's no essential view of the material. 2 stars
10/18/03 Jinnvisible I asked for my money back at the video rental store,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and they gave it back!!!! 1 stars
9/13/03 Ant A genuinely interesting study of a man's rise a fall. Kinnear is brilliant. 4 stars
6/25/03 quasi Don't bother unless you are seriously bored. 3 stars
4/29/03 Andrew Carden Kinnear Is Amazing, Dafoe Provides Great Support. Delightful. 5 stars
4/03/03 The Good Crane Son Yeah, not too INTERESTING per se, but perfect acting and lots of celeb taboo is always fun 5 stars
3/17/03 Paul Coleman Yes....John Carpenter murdered Bob Crane. Great performances. 4 stars
11/16/02 Robert Scott Crane Boring. Innacurate. Waste of Time. 2 stars
11/10/02 Mipchunk Interesting movie but it feels just like a biography, nothing really to learn from it. 3 stars
11/09/02 spaceworm Ick! 4 stars
11/08/02 Suzz good performances; great study of the slippery slope to depravity 5 stars
11/03/02 rue the whirl fascinating story. 4 stars
10/25/02 Gobblygook I enjoyed this movie. Performances were great. Much funnier than intense though. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Oct-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  10-Jul-2003


Directed by
  Paul Schrader

Written by
  Paul Schrader

Cast
  Greg Kinnear
  Willem Dafoe
  Maria Bello
  Kurt Fuller
  Rita Wilson
  Lyle Kanouse



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