Auto Focus Paul Schrader

Auto Focus Paul Schrader
Auto Focus is director Paul Schrader's brilliant tale of the extra-curricular (I wouldn't say inner) life of actor Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), who is almost exclusively known for being the star of hit '60s TV comedy Hogan's Heroes, and for being bludgeoned to death by a camera tripod in 1978 — a crime that was never solved. But what Auto Focus is more interested in is his sexual adventures, and the effect of his relationship with an audio/video nut named John Carpenter (not the director, played by Willem Dafoe). Carpenter introduced Crane to the then burgeoning video tape recording technology — and Crane introduced Carpenter to as many women as his celebrity would attract, which was a lot. While Crane couldn't sustain a couple of different marriages, his relationship with Carpenter turns deeper and more co-dependent as they sink into swinging scenes and get more dedicated to their amateur pornography — "a day without sex is a day wasted" becomes their mantra. Director Schrader is reluctant to give Crane a "good boy gets corrupted by evil Los Angeles" character arc, arguing instead that while he may be enabled by Carpenter, this penchant for porn isn't new. He also lets Crane remain a cipher — there is no "deep" explanation of exactly why he's like this. When his agent can't get him work due to his soiled reputation, Crane barks, "tell them sex is normal. I'm normal." Can't argue with that. Less than healthy is his relationship with Carpenter, who was the prime suspect in Crane's murder and was tried for it but not convicted due to a lack of evidence. The DVD goes all out, with an hour-long documentary on Crane's murder, deleted scenes and three separate commentaries. Sadly, Kinnear has a cold and Dafoe rarely speaks during theirs, but the track by Paul Schrader (best known as the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, as well as directing American Gigolo and Affliction) is like going to film school for two hours. Auto Focus is a brilliant and revealing film well worth repeat viewings; that the DVD enhances the whole film experience is sadly a rarity. Extras: director, cast, and producer and writer commentaries; Murder In Scottsdale doc; five deleted scenes with commentary; making of featurette. (Columbia)