Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (Nick Broomfield)

Rating: *** (out of ****)

It's a bit embarrassing to admit that I enjoyed this tacky, tawdry investigation of the Fleiss pandering scandal more than I did the reverential, noble, Academy-award-nominated Anne Frank Remembered, but I can't help it if Nick Broomfield has a more compelling vision of his subject than Jon Blair does. For a long time, it's essentially Heidi & Me, with Broomfield a laconic British version of Michael Moore; while Moore tends to poke fun at others, there's a great deal of self-deprecating humor in Broomfield's approach. We see his interview subjects call him a rube, an idiot, a fool; we see him paying L.A. police chief Daryl Gates to get him to talk; we see him arguing with a local news team about whether or not Fleiss should agree to talk to him ("just because your microphone has a number on it, you're the voice of reason?!" he asks incredulously). Eventually, however, Broomfield gets to Fleiss, and his relentless probing of her relationship with sleazy TV-movie director Ivan Nagy pays unexpected dividends. The film suddenly, and perhaps inadvertently, becomes a somewhat profound meditation on the ways in which people lie to others and to themselves, and a frightening portrait of how an abusive relationship functions. Broomfield manages to make Fleiss' fate seem almost as tragic as Anne Frank's, and that's quite an accomplishment.