(2007) dir. Dan Klores, Fisher Stevens
Crazy Love is a well-made documentary about a compelling, disturbing and fascinating story. The films follows a straight narrative slant on a tale of a lawyer, Burt Pugach, who, in 1957, falls in “love at first sight” with Linda Riss, a then 21 year old woman from the East Bronx. He is well-to-do, having made a good life for himself as an ambulance-chasing personal injury attorney and she is a striking beauty. They wind up seeing one another over a period of a year or two, until she discovers that he is already married.
Undaunted, Pugach starts in right away saying that his divorce is almost through and shows her the phonied up paperwork to “prove” it to her. He manages to string her along again for some time. Her feelings toward him were never inspired, while his were purely obsessive. When she discovers his deception yet again, she winds up finding a new romance, a young handsome guy who she does really feel something for.
Pugach, descending quickly into a mania, first thinks of killing his rival, going so far as to take a gun down into a doorway near her residence before chickening out. He then hires three African-American men to do the shocking and unthinkable. He clearly states that if he can’t have her, no one will. The men throw lye onto her face, blinding and scarring her for life.
While this is shocking and stunning, the rest of the story is, in a sense almost more so. I won’t belabor trying to tell it all out here because the film does unroll its narrative effectively, drawing the viewer through the turns and twists that make this story so amazing and impossible. It must be said that Pugach is perhaps apparently completely without empathy. As he tells every aspect of his story, the only one for whom he feels anything for is himself. The depth of his cruelty and selfishness are genuinely psychotic, and though he is found sane on more than one occasion, one might question exactly what those parameters were. He’s a horror.
I’d remembered reading about this film when it came out earlier this year, but I had forgotten a lot about it, enough to really be shocked as each fact is unveiled. Apparently it’s not new subject matter for the world media, having been covered broadly in not only New York newspapers and magazines but all over the world.
When talking to someone about it today, she said: “That’s what you watched on Christmas Day?” I’d rented it for the long haul of the long weekend from the video store. I hadn’t really planned it out exactly. But, in the end, yes, that is what I watched on Christmas Day. I don’t know if it’s out and out depressing. Some aspects are utterly sad. But there are other aspects of it that really broaden the sense of the world, of people, of lives over time. And while I don’t think it redeems Pugach in any way, it does allow for room to understand how the future is clearly impossible to know.