Saturday, August 25, 2007
AUTO FOCUS (2002, USA, Paul Schrader, Michael Gerbosi screenplay from Robert Graysmith’s book)
Biopic of Bob Crane, head hero on “Hogan’s Heroes,” charting his descent into porn addiction: Willem Dafoe plays Mephistopheles to Greg Kinnear’s Faust. Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune called it “Paul Schrader’s version of the classic Puritan sermon Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God – a cold shower for the soul.” He’s definitely right about the “sinners” part, though I’m not sure God’s hand is ever shown, angry or otherwise – apart from the brief and futile appearance of a parish priest. He’s also right about the film’s essential Puritanism – further evidence that you can take the boy out of Calvinism, but you can’t take Calvin out of the boy. (Though the only petal of Schrader’s TULIP that’s still in full bloom might be Total Depravity part; Unconditional Election doesn’t seem to come up, and you definitely won’t find much along the lines of Limited Atonement or Irresistible Grace. I forget what the “P” stands for. Need to watch HARDCORE again. Or, maybe not...) On the plus side, Schrader certainly doesn’t glorify pornography (though he may be obsessed with it): the film might serve as something of a cautionary tale for the right viewer. On the minus, there’s not much glory of any sort here: the scene where two men sit in front of a television and masturbate is a tough watch. Not to be dismissive – Roger Ebert praised the film as “a deep portrait of a shallow man, a hypnotic portrait of this sad, compulsive life” – but I do want you to know, it’s that kind of movie.
Available at Videomatica