Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) is catapulted to fame when he lands the title role in the tv comedy series, Hogan’s Heroes in 1965. For the next six years, while his fame rises, so does his libido, although he hardly touches his wife. When he meets video technician John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), Crane’s sexual appetite is encouraged and expanded by the possibilities of the new technology, propelling himself through a turbulent and unusual relationship with Carpenter, towards a tragic death in a cheap motel room, his career never pulling out of its nosedive.
 

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Paul Schrader\'s account of 60s television star, Bob Crane, is one of his best films.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Bob Crane, Greg Kinnear, is working as an on-air presenter for a Los Angeles radio station. He\'s a devout Catholic with a wife, Rita Wilson, and three children. There\'s just one thing: he likes to read \'adult\' magazines. Before long, Bob Crane\'s life is transformed. He gets the leading role in the very popular Bing Crosby Productions\' TV Series Hogan\'s Heroes, and he meets John Carpenter - no, not the film director but a salesman working for Sony and a loose cannon who, even more than Bob, is obsessed with sex.

Paul Schrader\'s account of the decline and fall of a seemingly bland star of 60s television is one of his best films perhaps because he can possibly relate to Crane; Schrader was brought up in a strictly religious environment before he became the writer of films like Taxi Driver and the director of films like American Gigolo. Crane was, indeed, a rather sad figure who allowed his sexual appetite to overwhelm his career and indeed his life; Kinnear gives his best performance to date in the role. And Willem Dafoe brings out all the seediness of Carpenter, a somewhat eerie, and much too friendly, character. Though Auto Focus is R rated, Schrader manages to leaven what could have been a very grim story with welcome black humour.