Thursday, October 31, 2002

Auto Focus (IMDB) (Netflix)
That a German World War II prison camp could be the setting for a highly successful TV sitcom (Hogan's Heroes) has stood out as an entertainment industry oddity, but but that strangeness is surpassed by the troubled private life of its star, Bob Crane (played by Greg Kinnear). He was a sex addict before there was a term for it, and enabled by hipster John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), makes a long trip down the behavioral rathole.

Paul Schrader has made a career of writing or directing about people's dark sides, notably Taxi Driver, Hardcore, Cat People, American Gigolo and Affliction. Auto Focus extends that vein, and is a powerful comeback to the smirk that comes to some peoples' faces when they hear that someone suffers from sex addiction. From the cheesy 60s and 70s decor to the watery black-and-white videos Crane and "Carpie" make of their exploits, there's nothing glamorized about the lifestyle, and Dafoe is the poster child for "the wrong kind of people" you could meet along the way. If you go to see skin, you'll get it, but you're much more likely to be repelled than aroused.