Sunday, January 05, 2020

Hardcore (1979) & Auto Focus (2002)

I watched both of these Paul Schrader films on the Criterion Channel last night. They made for an interesting double feature.

HARDCORE was my favorite of the two. It's the kind of film Schrader does so well, a character study of a deeply religious, conservative businessman (George C. Scott) from Grand Rapids whose daughter disappears from a church trip while in Los Angeles. After she is discovered to be acting in adult films, Scott descends into the lower depths of the porn industry to bring her back.

I missed AUTO FOCUS when it came out in 2002. This one explores the dark side of light TV comic Bob Crane, best remembered for his starring role on "Hogan's Heroes". After Crane (played by Greg Kinnear) meets video salesman John Carpenter (played by Willem Dafoe), his life takes a dark turn into recording his sexual fantasies on tape and struggling to re-brand himself so that he can continue working in Hollywood.

I frequently catch re-runs of "Hogan's Heroes" on MeTV, and am struck by what an affable leading man Crane was in that show. It's surprising that he wasn't able to build more of a career after that, but if the events in AUTO FOCUS are any indication, it seems he gave into self-destructive tendencies that prematurely ended his career, as well as his life.

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