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4 out of 5 stars
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the story of bob crane Schrader has made a career out of examining people whose lives descend from fine and upstanding to deeply dark and troubled (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Affliction, etc). And with this bio of 1960s TV star Bob Crane, he actually degrades the film quality slowly as Crane unravels. We begin in 1964 with a sunny, Technicolor image of a happy family. Crane (Kinnear) is a successful radio presenter with a loyal wife (Wilson) and kids. When his agent (Liebman) offers him a script for a new sitcom set in a German PoW camp, everyone's understandably dubious. But the script is funny, and Hogan's Heroes becomes one of the biggest hits of the decade. Success, though, turns Crane's head, and when he meets John Carpenter (Dafoe), he gives in to his previously subdued lusts, photographing and videotaping their increasingly outrageous sexual encounters. Second wife Patty (Bello) is more understanding, but even that relationship doesn't last. Eventually in 1978, Crane was found beaten to death (with a tripod, of all things). The case has never been solved.

Firstly, this film will have a hard time playing in Europe, where it has two strikes against it: Hogan's Heroes was never a hit over here, so no one knows who Crane was. This leaves the film as just another examination of addiction, and it might not be enough to make it work. On the other hand, those familiar with the genial family man Crane will find his shady private life absolutely riveting; the way he kept up public appearances and even deceived himself is astonishing. From a good Catholic husband to uncontrollable sex fiend (he pointedly never drinks or does drugs), Kinnear nails the role perfectly, probably helped by the fact that Kinnear and Crane share the same comedic good-guy careers. So the shift from clean cut to deeply disheveled is even more remarkable. And Schrader carefully and steadily captures this slippery slope from furtive glances and girly mags to self-produced porn; the transition from vivid sharp colours to bleached monochrome is almost imperceptible. The episodic film also features a startlingly authentic recreation of the Hogan set (with a very strange daydream sequence), and a superb supporting cast. And in the end it's almost frighteningly stark and chilling, with Crane's words echoing on the soundtrack: "That's how it is. Men gotta have fun!"

cert 15 strong adult themes and situations, language, nudity, violence 25.Oct.02 lff

dir Paul Schrader
scr Michael Gerbosi
with Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson, Maria Bello, Ron Leibman, Bruce Solomon, Ed Begley Jr, Michael McKean, Michael E Rodgers, Kurt Fuller, Christopher Neiman, Lyle Kanouse
release US 18.Oct.02; UK 7.Mar.03
Sony
02/US 1h47

Where's your hand? Carpenter and Crane (Dafoe and Kinnear) watch one of their orgy tapes...

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

kinnear dafoe wilson

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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