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Festival Review

Alex Meneses and Greg Kinnear
Auto Focus
by Jurgen Fauth

Guide Rating -  


The story must have seemed to good to pass up: Nazi comedy, sleazy sex, betrayal, murder, and ancient betamax equipment. Paul Schrader, screenwriter of "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" delivers a bio pic about Bob Crane, aka Hogan the funny concentration camp yankee, here played by Greg Kinnear, who manages to bring an all-American innocence to the role. Soon after he tastes TV success, Crane was drawn into a sex-drenched underworld. Together with John Carpenter, here played by Willem Dafoe, Crane screws his way through Hollywood and videotapes himself with hilariously outdated video cameras. As in "Blow," "Boogie Nights," and every other morality tale, the end is obvious right from the start. Of course, it doesn't help to build suspense when the credits announce "Based on the book 'The Murder of Bob Crane.'"

The New York Film Festival
• The 40th New York Film Festival
• About Schmidt
• The Man without a Past/ Etre et Avoir/ Avant-Garde
• Bloody Sunday
• The Uncertainty Principle

• Punch-Drunk Love

• Divine Intervention

• Safe Conduct

Individual scenes stand out. There are some fine moments of Seventies debauchery: penis enlargements, and an xxx-rated Hogan's Heroes fantasy that justifies the price of admission alone, but the overall impact of "Auto Focus" is disappointingly weak. Given its lurid subject matter, the film is astoundingly bland. Seen in retrospect, the film's story doesn't seem so outrageous at all: famous guy cheats on his wife and has lots of sex! Hold the presses!

Consider this: the son of the real Bob Crane is now hocking his father's dirty pictures online. In a world where children sell their parent's amateur porn and that is used to discussing the former president's sex life in excruciating detail, "Auto Focus" offers too little that's new, too little we haven't seen elsewhere, and too little insight in the relationships between desire and social mores that create tragedies like Bob Crane.

Auto Focus is showing at the NYFF on October 4 and 5. It will be released in New York and Los Angeles on October 18.


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• Igby Goes Down
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• More from the 40th New York Film Festival
• Independent Directors
• Film Festivals
• The Film Society of Lincoln Center

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