US, 2002, 106 minutes, Colour.
Greg Kinnear, Willard Dafoe, Rita Wilson, Maria Bello, Ron Liebmann, Kurt Fuller, Ed Begley Jr, Michael McKean?.
Directed by Paul Schrader.
Auto Focus is a sad film, a film about sexual addiction.
The film is based on the life story and experience of Bob Crane, star of Hogan’s Heroes. Crane had a successful career in Hollywood, but was always ambitious, a Catholic, active, he seemed to have a happy married life.
His curiosity and drives led him to become involved in sexual activities, becoming more and more bizarre, becoming addicted to them, destroying himself as a person, his career, his wife and family. There is the pathos of his death. To that extent, the film is a cautionary tale.
Auto Focus was written by Paul Schrader, a man with a classic interest in film, writing on transcendence in film. Schrader came from the Midwest, from a very strong Protestant Calvinist background. This manifested itself in interest in religious themes, his screenplay for The Last Temptation of Christ, or his preoccupation with aspects of sexuality, including Hardcore, The Walker, The Canyons.
Greg Kinnear, who usually comes across as a very genial screen personality with some charm, portrays Crane with the blend of the charm and the interior growing corruption. The film has a strong supporting cast including Maria Bello in several roles.
In more recent times there was a film about sex addiction and 12 steps meetings and sponsor therapy, Thank You for Sharing. They make an interesting set of companion films.
1. Based on a true story? Bob Crane and his life? The research into crime? The public figure, celebrity, a man with a particular image, his real not consistent with the image? His being murdered?
2. The title, Crane and his narcissism, his addiction?
3. The films and writing of Paul Schrader? Serious? Delving into unusual areas? The human person, problems, addictions?
4. The 1960s to the 1990s? The United States, California? Changes? The development of the media? Radio, television, film? Celebrities and their status?
5. Audience knowledge of Hogan’s Heroes, then, now? Its reputation? 7 years on television?
6. Bob Crane on radio, his verve, cheeky, the interviews, with Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger, playing the drums, personable? His interviews with his agent, the possibilities of Hogan’s Heroes and his accepting?
7. His marriage, and the children, a family man, supporting them, Anne and her moves to support her husband’s career? The Catholic images in house, seen at Mass and reciting the creed? Anne suggesting he talk to the priest, his refusal? Later meeting with him, talking about himself, the priest, his sympathetic response, discussions about temptation, being more positive and offering an alternate for trying to play music and to drum with a group?
8. The photographs, in the garage, the magazines, Anne’s reaction? Wanting them out of the house? Hogan’s Heroes, the readings, introduction to each of the cast, the impersonations by the contemporary actors? The various scenes, especially the comedy with Hogan and Klink? The director, the interactions, on set, the performances, changing attitudes, jealousies?
9. John Carpenter, an unusual type, his technical know-how, his work, befriending Bob, the sexual implications, the nature of friendship, his character?
10. Going to the clubs, drinking, the strippers, Crane and his interest in women, talking about breasts, his photography? The emcee at the club, the autographs, his continually returning, the effect? The photography, the girls, sexual encounters?
11. At home, reading the script in bed, the tension with Anne, his excuses? Bringing home the video, photographing the kids, the home movies, delight?
12. Carpenter and the whole background of technical development from film to video, the digital changes? The technical background, explanations, seeing the cameras, explanations of video developments, Bob and his using the cameras, the audience seeing the footage and the sexual behaviour? Carpenter and his skills, the company, the businessman and the meeting, the discovery that Carpenter was colourblind, being fired?
13. Bob and Sigrid, her coming on to the set, her performance, their relationship, sexual, his decision to divorce and, to marry Sigrid, on set? The publicity? The marriage, home, her pregnancy? Touring with Bob, the dinner theatre, the play? Her getting more and more upset? Leading to separation and divorce?
14. The end of Hogan’s Heroes, discussions with his producer, the role in Superdad, the delay and its release, not well reviewed? A small role in Gus? John urging him to go back to radio? Continuingly meeting people, their regard for him as Hogan, photos and autographs?
15. The up and down relationship with John, the orgy, groping, later needing his help with the camera? Resuming their friendship? Sexual behavior, sequence, groping him, his breaking with John? John and his influence on Bob?
16. Crane’s decline, the fiasco of the cooking TV program, still performing in the play, life by himself, John his only friend?
17. The murder? Audiences assuming it was John? Lack of evidence? John going to trial? His being acquitted? His death?
18. A sad story, decline and fall, the American dream turned nightmare, the grip of addiction, sexual addiction?