Auto Focus Reviews
Its a study of addiction. Like any addict, Crane constantly announced plans to change but never made any effort. If he really meant to in the end, that's probably what got him killed. His obsession ruined his life and career.
Director Paul Schrader may have made a faithful adaptation of the source book, but it left me wanting more of some things and less of others. It did have plenty of sleaze. Its a gloomy, unflinching film, and I recommend it to anyone willing to delve into the dark underbelly of success.
I do not honestly see what the point of "Auto Focus" is supposed to be. A whole bunch of topics are barely touched on like dubious celebrity and the need for self-control.(And Crane is not the first nor the last one-hit wonder in television history.) Yes, "Hogan's Heroes" does sound like a bad idea but then so does "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."
The relationship between Crane and Carpenter is not really homoerotic in nature. It is more like shared misogyny. Both men only seem interested in the physical side of women and Crane takes pictures just of female body parts.(But on the other hand, the movie pays little attention to its female characters.) And I wonder if Carpenter ever had a lasting relationship with a woman? I do not know anything about the real Carpenter but Dafoe only shows off the character's sleazy and sinister side which would not exacly make him somebody you would want to hang out with, much less swing with.
Playboy Magazine had been published since 1953, so I don't understand why nude photography would be a huge surprise 12 years later. And Crane and Carpenter are ahead of their time by creating pornographic home movies in the 1960's.
Paul Schrader is a man who certainly knows how to capture the darker points of life onscreen. Auto Focus and Affliction, the latter being a personal favorite of mine, are perfect examples of that. Schrader begins by showing us a character that has been a victim of circumstance, and then leads us down a path to despair as they are swallowed by their own sin. In the end, we cannot help but feel pity for them
Though Schrader is indifferent to the lead character, Bob Crane, it is clear that he loathes and holds a deep resentment for the sin that Crane commits. It is exactly that that makes Auto Focus such a good film, not to mention the wonderful performance from Greg Kinnear.
There need to be more directors like Paul Schrader out there. Cinema does have a purpose, but, sadly, it is typically used to entertain audiences with either bad jokes, loud action, or both.
I, for one, feel that cinema is a perfect way to warn the world of the dangers and temptations that lurk beneath the happy exterior, the dangers that lurk like characters in a David Lynch film.
Cinema's number one purpose is for entertainment, yes, and I have no quarrels with that, but take a look at the world we live in. Look at the box office totals between Auto Focus and, say, Transformers.
The first half is filled with Crane's happy life(Schrader and his crew uses bright colors to suggest the feeling) as the film reaches the early 1970's the colors start to drab a little and the camera movement becomes shaky because Crane's life at that time was getting WAY to shaky. Greg Kinnear was born to play the DJ/Actor sensation and Dafoe is creepy as John Carpenter.
Premise: Auto Focus is a cautionary tale of addiction. What kills Crane, it says, is a lethal combination of sex, video, and celebrity: Because of his fame he can go to bed with a different woman (or several) every night. And because the mid-'60s marks the birth of a new technology-home video-and he's pals with a celebrity hanger-on named John Carpenter (a prodigiously cretinous Willem Dafoe) who works at Sony, he can videotape his conquests and relive them whenever he wants to. Which is basically all the time.
And this is a true story too. Kinnear plays his part quite well, though I thought Dafoe was a little too old and overtly creepy for his part. Never heard of Bob Crane before, but that dude straight up lost sight of the Jeez, and and a downward spiral ensued.
Painting a rather unapologetic portrait of a man allowed to indulge his excesses, the film is amazingly watchable and well worth a rental at the very least.