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Auto Focus (2002)

Autofocus

A day without sex is a day wasted

Directed by:

Paul Schrader

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

You’d have thought that having the lead role in a successful 60s TV “Holocaust comedy” like “Hogan’s Heroes” would be satisfaction enough for any man. Right? Well, not quite, and definitely not for the man in question here, Bob Crane.

This fascinating biopic, adapted from Robert Graysmith’s “The Murder of Bob Crane” (which kinda gives away what happens to our lead character, in case you didn’t already know), sees the under-rated Greg Kinnear produce the performance of his career as the seedy sex addict whose rise to fame becomes far more a curse than a blessing.

Frenetically obsessed with humping, he tosses away first one marriage and then another in favour of trawling bars, night clubs and strip joints in search of any women daft enough to make themselves available. His accomplice is video equipment pioneer John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), a man who, in the style of a Second Division footballer, becomes referred to as “Carpy”. Over the course of 12 years, the pair of them photograph and video each and every smutty conquest before, pretty soon, these home-made skin-flicks become the only type of film Crane has any chance of appearing in. But, when he finally decides he wants to change his lifestyle and give his proper acting career another go, he discovers that not everybody thinks it’s a great idea.

Director Paul Schrader – probably best known for writing ‘Taxi Driver’ – gives us a film as uncomfortable to watch as it is funny. Crane is presented as a character with next to no depth, but Kinnear is so convincing in the role that, despite his steady growth in offensiveness, he becomes almost an object of sympathy. The film’s key fault is its abrupt ending which, after devoting so long to showing the long-term downfall of the man, seems rushed and poorly thought-out.

It's Got: Kurt Fuller doing a nice comedy turn as Colonel Klink. “Hogggggaaaaaannnnn!!!!”

It Needs: To have devoted more time to the ending.

DVD Extras Choice of commentary from either the director or the writer and producer, two-part ‘Murder in Scottsdale’ documentary (which includes a look at the real life Carpy), ‘Making of’ featurette, deleted scenes, and some trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Man on the Moon, Quiz Show, The People vs Larry Flynt

Summary

An absorbing dramatisation of the downfall of a US TV celebrity – but definitely not for kiddy-winks.

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