Schrader returns with lusty temptations of small-screen chancer
DIRECTED BY Paul Schrader
STARRING Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Maria Bello
Opens March 7, Cert 18, 107 mins
While it could be darker, delve deeper, Schrader’s biopic of a celebrity sex maniac in the ’60s/’70s (ie:a man just two decades ahead of the mainstream) is an intriguing, decidedly odd diversion. It’s fun for reasons you don’t associate with the director of Affliction and Cat People (it’s stylish, chic, bubbly) and weak in ways you don’t anticipate from the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (it shies away from asking why the central figure’s such a fuck-up). Michael Gerbosi scripted, but Schrader brings subtle shudders to the show.
An obstacle to Brit enjoyment is that we have little idea who “TV star” Bob Crane was (see also: Chuck Barris, Andy Kaufman, Frank Abagnale). Stateside, he was the star of Hogan’s Heroes?a bizarre, popular sitcom set in a Nazi POW camp. Kinnear plays Crane/Hogan with cute wit. As his celebrity grows, his marriage collapses and he follows his urges. Which involve humping anything that moves. In the age of free love, part-time drummer Bob’s a champion of freedom.
The frolics fog over when Bob’s rapport with seedy friend John (Dafoe) becomes too intense. John’s a technology whiz, teaching Bob how to film his trysts and coax girls into “performing” to camera. Initially his gadgetry and zeal charm Bob, but soon he susses John’s a parasite, using the ‘star’ for access to groupies. Boogie nights become bogus nights. His second marriage, to the open-minded Patti (Bello), crumbles. As Bob’s fame declines, with a hypocritical showbiz set damning his sexploits, John’s pushed aside. By ’78, Bob’s found murdered in an Arizona motel:John’s the chief suspect.
“All I think about all day long is sex; a day without sex is a day wasted,” trumpets Crane, lent ingenuous charm by Kinnear. Paradoxically, Schrader doesn’t get under his skin, or into his psyche: he’s a meretricious gigolo, Dirk Diggler with a CV.
At root, the film’s as coy about swinging?and addiction?as the mainstream icons of its highlighted era. Intentional irony, maybe, but it makes for drab passages in an often vibrant, colourful movie. It could’ve zoomed in.