Auto Focus

Auto Focus

3.5 2
Director: Paul Schrader, Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson

Cast: Paul Schrader, Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson


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Bob Crane was proof that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, that is, if the facts that are presented in Auto Focus are accurate. As for the DVD, Columbia/TriStar has done an admirable job on the disc, considering the lack of success for this film in theaters. The 1.85:1 image, anamorphic of course, is nicely presented. It's far from a reference quality


Bob Crane was proof that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, that is, if the facts that are presented in Auto Focus are accurate. As for the DVD, Columbia/TriStar has done an admirable job on the disc, considering the lack of success for this film in theaters. The 1.85:1 image, anamorphic of course, is nicely presented. It's far from a reference quality transfer, but detail is quite strong, and colors are accurately represented. The intentional visual style concocted by director Paul Schrader varies from beginning to end based on Crane's current condition, and this disc translates the different states of mind exceptionally well. The 5.1 English Dolby Digital track is also very nice. For the most part, the sound is centered up front, but there are a number of instances where the surrounds are used effectively. As for extras, they're fairly abundant, but a mixed bag. Up first is not one, but three audio commentaries, from Schrader, writer Michael Gerbosi, producers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and, finally, stars Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. Also included is an hour-long documentary, "Murder in Scottsdale," about the actual case, and while very detailed, it is a bit of a bore. Far less substantial, but at least shorter, is a seven-minute fluff piece from the studio with some interviews. In addition to this are five deleted scenes with optional commentary from Schrader, two trailers for this film and a handful of others from Columbia/TriStar, including Talk To Her and Spider, among others.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
The strange, sex-obsessed life of TV sitcom star Bob Crane is the subject of this dark tragicomedy from veteran writer-director Paul Schrader. Auto Focus follows Crane, played with uncanny perfection by Greg Kinnear, as he rises from obscurity as a radio DJ to minor stardom on the hit ‘60s TV show Hogan's Heroes. Schrader, though, focuses mainly on Crane’s later years as a washed-up ex-celebrity who becomes addicted to videotaping his own ultra-promiscuous sex life. Crane's partner in amateur pornography is video-equipment salesman Johnny Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), and the strength of the film hinges on this unlikely friendship. These two best buddies burst with an almost childlike enthusiasm for their sexual indulgences, partaking in orgies like kids let loose in a candy store. While Dafoe's performance strikes an intriguing balance between innocence and devilish glee, Kinnear adds a layer of celebrity arrogance to his portrayal of Crane. Yet underneath the famous persona is a naïve adolescent who seems nothing short of baffled as his adulterous escapades destroy his marriages and his career. With a minimum of eroticism and a healthy dose of deadpan humor, Schrader evokes Crane's emotional erosion through an evolution in cinematic style: The film, in the beginning, has the blandness of a TV sitcom, then moves toward grainier, high-contrast footage shot with a handheld camera. Although the story ends in tragedy, Schrader avoids overt moralizing. Instead, he explores themes of unconscious desire and latent homosexuality with cool detachment. Fiercely intelligent in its approach to its tawdry, sensationalistic subject matter, Auto Focus is as compelling as it is unsettling.
All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
Though Paul Schrader isn't often tapped to direct scripts other than his own, his touch proves essential to Auto Focus, a true-life tale of sex, celebrity, and videotape that seems tailor-made to the man who dreamed up Taxi Driver and American Gigolo. Schrader's clinical, detached directorial style proves well-matched to the genial, humorous tone of Michael Gerbosi's script; it's like Hardcore without all the proselytizing (and without the sight of George C. Scott in a campy porn-producer costume). What Auto Focus is most interested in is not the narcotizing effects of anonymous sex -- though that's undeniably a big part of it -- but the latent homosexuality lurking behind Bob Crane and John Carpenter's buddy-buddy sexcapades. Finally cast in a role that successfully sends up and subverts his All-American charm, Greg Kinnear perfectly captures Crane's kid-in-a-candy-store sexual awakening; meanwhile, Willem Dafoe underlines the desperation at the heart of the swinging lifestyle. Schrader overplays his hand in the film's "downward spiral" sequences, switching to hand-held camera and bleached-out film stock, but even those minor technical miscalculations don't detract from the film's portrait of Crane as a man whose determination to lead the unobserved life ultimately led to his death.
Entertainment Weekly
The performances are vividly alive. Lisa Schwarzbaum
New York Times
Gets to you like a low-grade fever, a malaise with no known antidote. A.O. Scott
Chicago Sun-Times

A hypnotic portrait of this sad, compulsive life. Roger Ebert
New York Observer
From the opening razzmatazz and Vegas lounge-band arrangements behind the credits, to the crime-lab murder scene itself, Mr. Schrader captures the air-conditioned look and feel of the Hollywood dream factory. Rex Reed

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Digitally mastered audio & high definition video; Widescreen presentation; Commentaries: director Paul Schrader; actors Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe; producers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski & writer Michael Gerbosi; "Murder in Scottsdale" documentary; Making-of featurette; 5 deleted scenes with optional director commentary; Subtitles: English, French; Audio: English 5.1 (Dolby Digital), French (Dolby Surround); Bonus trailers; Weblink; Animated menus; Scene selections

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Greg Kinnear Bob Crane
Willem Dafoe Johnny Carpenter
Rita Wilson Anne Crane
Maria Bello Patricia Crane
Ron Leibman Lenny
Kurt Fuller Werner Klemperer/Klink
Ed Begley Mel Rosen
Michael E. Rodgers Richard Dawson
Michael McKean Video Executive
Christopher Neiman Clary
Bruce Solomon Feldman
Lyle Kanouse John Banner/Schultz
Nikita Ager Julie

Technical Credits
Paul Schrader Director
Steve Aaron Sound/Sound Designer
Scott Alexander Producer
Alicia Allain Producer
Angelo Badalamenti Musical Direction/Supervision
Aaron Barsky Asst. Director
Kristina Boden Editor
James Chinlund Production Designer
Pat Dollard Producer
Michael Gerbosi Screenwriter
Joel Harlow Makeup Special Effects
Rick Hess Executive Producer
Rob Hinderstein Makeup Special Effects
Larry Karaszewski Producer
Wendy Kurtzman Casting
Trevor Macy Executive Producer
Fred Murphy Cinematographer
Brian Olivier Co-producer
Sam Pope Set Decoration/Design
Seth Reed Art Director
Todd Rosken Producer
G. Marq Roswell Musical Direction/Supervision
James Schamus Executive Producer
Gene Serdena Set Decoration/Design
Julie Weiss Costumes/Costume Designer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Start [2:31]
2. Bob Crane, DJ [1:40]
3. Pitching "Hogan's Heroes" [1:37]
4. Family Comes First [2:30]
5. The Pilot Episode [1:37]
6. Press Junket [4:50]
7. John Carpenter [2:09]
8. Salomes [2:49]
9. Fatherly Advice [4:07]
10. Carpy's Pad [5:19]
11. Party With Jill & Judy [4:40]
12. Patricia [3:53]
13. Giving Bob a Hand [8:10]
14. "Schmile" [1:08]
15. A Woman Who Understands Him [3:27]
16. Daydreaming Again [2:57]
17. Photo Finish [2:40]
18. "I Need Work" [2:57]
19. Mistress Victoria [3:09]
20. Dinner Theatre [2:21]
21. "Real Gone Lover" [2:04]
22. Big Plans [6:27]
23. Bobby Does Dallas [5:11]
24. Custom Edits [2:57]
25. "Celebrity Cooks" [1:53]
26. The Image Problem [11:11]
27. Lowering the Boom [5:11]
28. End of a Perfect Friendship [6:00]


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Auto Focus 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very good, sad film about a very sick man whose lifestyle led to his demise.