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Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone (DVD Review)

21 Sep, 2008 By: Holly J. Wagner

Larry Flynt

Street 9/30/08
$19.97 DVD
Not rated.

It’d be easy to do a salacious tell-all documentary about Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. After all, he did pioneer the gratuitous beaver shot in skin mags.

But that’s not all he pioneered, and the less obvious aspects of his career are the focus of this documentary. To paraphrase one of the Founding Fathers, you may not like what Flynt publishes, but you should be glad he’s defending to near-death the right to publish it.

Besides, the political cartoons and articles that have drawn so much fire over the years almost make it true when someone says they read it for the articles. Who else puts up money to hold politicians to the standards they like to impose on others?

Pornography has been at the leading edge of the publishing industry since French postcards, and this film makes it clear why. People will spend money on it, and that puts folks such as Flynt in a financial position to defend it, when necessary.

About two-thirds of the way into the film, we start to hear Flynt’s biting criticism if the Bush administration, but that is tempered with accounts of what it takes for reporters 50 years after Vietnam to get actual battlefield footage. It’s been locked down, tightly controlled, embedded. It took years just to get the right to print photos of flag-draped coffins coming back from Iraq. We have Larry Flynt and his ilk to thank for that in an era of corporate media.

The video industry has long understood how it’s benefited from Flynt’s First Amendment battles. He was a panelist at the Home Entertainment Expo in 2002 as well as on the leadoff panel at the 2004 AVN show.

But this retrospective of Flynt’s court battles may establish his redeeming social value with people who aren’t familiar with his continuing struggle to keep the press free. It’s about so much more than porn.

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