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In 1965, Bob Crane, who had achieved some earlier success as a television supporting actor, was working as a successful morning radio DJ at KNX Los Angeles. Despite enjoying his work, photography (especially of the female form) and drumming, Crane wanted to be a movie star. So it was with some reluctance that he accepted the title starring role in a new television sitcom called Hogan's Heroes (1965), a WWII POW comedy. To his surprise, the show became a hit and catapulted him to television stardom. The fame resulting from the show led to excesses and a meeting with home video salesman and technician John Carpenter, with who he would form a friendship based on their mutual interests, namely excessive sex (for Crane, purely heterosexual sex) and capturing nude females on celluloid. His fame allowed Crane to have as much sex as he wanted, which was incongruent to his somewhat wholesome television friendly image, and the way he portrayed himself to almost everyone except Carpenter and his... Written by
Actor Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), star of Hogan's Heroes, forms a friendship with a video enthusiast (Willem Dafoe) and together they become obsessed with sex, swinging, and photographing or filming the action.
This is a brilliantly disturbing movie. Kinnear carefully plays Crane as a blank-faced cypher who cannot see himself, and is comfortable with the surface of things. Thus photography is the perfect obsession for him; he can look without participating, even when he's looking at his own participation. Auto Focus is a clever title, referring to both the photography and the only person upon whom Crane can focus. He is lost in a world of obsessively meaningless behavior.
A look at IMDb's message board for the film shows that one of Crane's two sons is fighting the misinformation presented by director Paul Schrader and Crane's other son. It does seem that the movie distorts some biographical facts, but what biopic doesn't? This story of obsession and doom is worth much more than its attention to one man's biography.
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