Made up of archival interview clips and newly shot interview footage with the man himself, Joan Brooker-Marks Larry Flynt - The Right To Be Left Alone arrives on DVD after having played on IFC for a while now. For those who haven't seen it, this fascinating seventy-two minute documentary explores an enterprising young man started as a night club owner and became one of the wealthiest pornographers in the history of the entire world as well as the many legal battles he fought along the way.
Part biography and part interview, this proves to be a fascinating look back at Flynt's career as a publisher and his many odd excursions into the even more unusual world of American politics. Few people have had as many run-ins with those who would see the First Amendment torn down than Flynt and regardless of your thoughts on his chosen career path, it's hard not to respect the man for standing up for what he believes in. His battles with the religious right (the Rev. Jerry Falwell in particular) and the various obscenity charge he has faced over the years make up much of the features running time while details about his relationship with his late wife and his personal life give the man a genuine personality.
The film examines the 1978 assassination attempt that left Flynt paralyzed from the waist down, his battle with painkillers that followed, and his sudden personality changes that occurred after this traumatic event and contrasts these very different personas with the Flynt we have now - a considerably calmer and more collected man, but one who is no less passionate about standing up for his beliefs. Flynt now works not only as an adult magazine publisher and XXX movie producer but also as a public speaker, talking at various locations across the country about the importance of free speech, the corruption and hypocrisy of many of our elected officials and other topics that are near and dear to his heart.
While those who have seen The People Vs. Larry Flynt (in which Woody Harrelson did a great job playing the lead role cast against Courtney Love as his late wife Althea) will know much of the story already, here we get an opportunity to hear what happened in Flynt's own words. The dramatic retelling sticks pretty close to the truth but hearing Flynt recall some of the tumultuous events from his past remains fascinating stuff. The man has lead a truly unusual life and Brooker-Marks' motion picture cuts right to the chase. Flynt may be little more than an opportunistic capitalist at heart (there's nothing wrong with making a buck!), but his passion for free speech is completely sincere and that definitely comes across as this documentary plays out.
While hardly a 'hero' in the traditional sense, he has done much more than most people realize to stand up against those who would dictate what we can and cannot see or read in the privacy of our own homes and this examination of his various struggles in that regard are absolutely of importance and relevance, particularly for those of us who don't necessarily want what the mainstream media has to offer us. While he's obviously embracing the fact that he is now somewhat of a darling of the more left leaning part of the media landscape, none of that changes what he's done or what he's been through.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty decent even if it is interlaced. Some of the archival clips, taken from older newscasts and television appearances, understandably, look a little worse for wear. Given that much of the documentary is made up of inserts from television clips past and present, there's going to be some variation in the video quality for this film. That said, the newly shot interview footage with Flynt that appears here is in good shape. As far as the authoring goes, there's a little bit of shimmer in some spots but otherwise the picture is strong. There aren't any issues with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement to complain about and color reproduction looks nice and lifelike.
Larry Flynt - The Right To Be Left Alone arrives on DVD with a nifty Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track in its native English language. Almost the entire documentary is dialogue based, there's very little in the way of a soundtrack or sound effects save for some background music, so the 2.0 track is fine. Dialogue is easy to follow and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion. Levels are well balanced and while this is a fairly simple track, it gets the job done without any problems.
Supplements include an audio commentary track courtesy of the film's director, Joan Brooker-Marks. This is quite a solid track as the director talks about the initial inspiration for the film, what it was like working with Flynt and interviewing him for the project, and other related issues. Although an isolated music track is advertised on the packaging, it's nowhere to be seen on the DVD itself.
Also worth checking out are the Additional Larry Flynt Interviews (10:13) that were shot for the feature and cut out in the editing room. While not all of this material is as good as what made it into the final version of the film, it does allow Flynt to expand on a few topics and issues and as such is pretty worthwhile. The Deposition Footage (26:17) from 1984 is also included here and completely worth watching as it gives us a glimpse into where Flynt was at, mentally at least, during this very tumultuous time in his life and career. Rounding out the extra features is a still gallery, a trailer for the feature, some trailers for unrelated Anchor Bay DVD releases, animated menus, and chapter selection.
Anyone who feels that free speech is still important in America owes Larry Flynt a debt of gratitude, whether they like him or his work or not. This documentary goes a long way towards explaining why Flynt became as important politically as he has become in the world of the pornography business and it paints a very interesting portrait of his career, his politics, and his personal life by allowing him to tell his side of the story. The bonus features are interesting and reasonably plentiful while the audio and video presentation are of pretty decent quality - consider Larry Flynt - The Right To Be Left Alone highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.