Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam

A sleaze-world Rashomon, carried out with comic perseverance by British documentarian Nick Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney, Biggie and Tupac). In the months after Heidi Fleiss’s arrest and detox period, Broomfield sniffs around the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles — the porn actresses, the rough men and women who cater to the basest instincts, the blonde prostitutes available to sheiks and Hollywood royalty. That L.A. is a moral pit has become a banal truism; the shocking thing about this largely unsensationalized film is its unblinking gaze upon the flesh merchants who justify their livelihood with depressing glibness. Broomfield goes back and forth between Heidi’s two evil mentors: Madam Alex, who once ruled the Hollywood-hooker roost, and Ivan Nagy, a consummate scumbag and everyone’s worst nightmare of a decadent Hollywood “filmmaker.” Finally we sit for a prolonged talk with the woman herself, who speaks eloquently and nervously on her behalf. We decide that Heidi the media harlot is the most trustworthy person on view. But Broomfield doesn’t stop there. By the very end, we don’t know whom to believe, and we are relieved to be freed from the fog of contradictions and self-justifying rhetoric; we need some air. The movie’s poker-faced accumulation of lies and glimmers of truth is devastating; it has the force of great satire, all the more powerful for being real.

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