LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Larry Flynt is no
stranger to the big screen.
Milos Forman's 1996 "The People vs. Larry Flynt," with
Woody Harrelson playing the quarrelsome pornographer,
chronicled Flynt's colorful run-ins with the law as he
challenged establishment moralists. Flynt is no stranger to the
small screen, either: Most recently, he has popped up decrying
Washington hypocrisy as Sen. David Vitter, R-La., admitted to
dealings with a D.C. escort service after receiving a phone
call from an editor with Flynt's Hustler magazine.
Now, Flynt also is the subject of a new documentary, "Larry
Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone," which screens next Tuesday
at the ArcLight Hollywood as part of the International
Documentary Assn.'s DocuWeek (August 17-23).
The film marks the feature directorial debut of Joan
Brooker-Marks, a former TV writer who moved on to teach film at
the School of Visual Arts in New York. Even though Flynt has
gotten plenty of media attention, she was convinced that most
of the previous accounts of his life "were more biographical. I
wanted to touch on the seminal events in his life but also
wanted to really, really concentrate on his court battles on
behalf of the First Amendment. Personally, I think the First
Amendment is unequivocal, and Larry's efforts have been
significant -- particularly for writers and satirists, even
though they have been minimized because he is a pornographer."
Her husband Walter Marks, who happened to be an old
acquaintance of Flynt's, introduced her to her subject, who
gave her carte blanche, opening up his own extensive archives.
While the film, which was privately financed at the cost of
several hundred thousand dollars, began shooting in October
2005, Brooker-Marks has been adding bits of footage right up
until locking it for its DocuWeek premiere -- for example,
adding Flynt's reaction to the recent death of the Rev. Jerry
Falwell, whose libel suit against Flynt led to a Supreme Court
victory for the publisher in the 1980s.
As a piece of advocacy filmmaking, "Left Alone" could
almost have jumped from the pages of Hustler itself. It
includes interspersed footage of a Hustler photo shoot --
albeit a relatively discreet one -- as well as political-minded
cartoons from the magazine. It jumps from topic to topic:
Flynt's first court case in Cincinnati, where he was convicted
of pandering in 1977; his refusal to surrender sources for the
tapes revealing the FBI sting operation against carmaker John
DeLorean in the '80s; and his exposes of prominent Republicans
during the Clinton impeachment trail in the '90s.
The documentary does tend to lionize Flynt at points. It
reports, for example, how Flynt filed suit against Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld so that his reporters could accompany
troops into battle in Afghanistan. Although a U.S. district
judge denied Flynt's request for a preliminary injunction and
the Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear the case on
appeal, the docu argues that the Defense Department allowed
embedded journalists to accompany the military into Iraq as a
result of Flynt's legal efforts.
The film takes its title from Supreme Court Justice Louis
Brandeis' contention that the Fourth Amendment's right to
privacy includes "the right to be left alone" -- a sentiment
that Flynt echoes. In the buttoned-down world of constitutional
law, Flynt emerges as a most unlikely champion of free speech
because, as Brooker-Marks says, "In the beginning, he just
wanted to be around pretty girls and publish a magazine."