As a tool for chronicling the weird and wonderful we are all capable of, documentary can sometimes provide remarkable insights into behaviour and dysfunction. Crazy Love is one of the more successful films of the genre in recent years.
In 1959, 32-year-old Burt Pugach saw 21-year-old Linda Riss sitting on a park bench and was immediately smitten. Pugach was an attorney specialising in injury lawsuits, but also a nightclub owner and filmmaker, and married with a disabled child – yet Riss seemed to him the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. After he wooed her with fancy restaurants and flights in his plane, she became aware of his marriage and ended their dating. His violent and misguided reaction would have lifelong repercussions for them both, with not entirely predictable outcomes.
Crazy Love is a brilliantly told tale of how two people got to the position for which they became famous, and how they continue to provoke surprise and dismay even today. Dan Klores lets their account unfold chronologically, which maximises the impact of the revelations for those (like myself) unfamiliar with the details. The subtle shifts in tone that accompany twists in this love story build a gradual momentum that soon has the viewer hooked and amazedly wondering what could possibly come next – this is certainly a film best seen without prior reading or viewing of the trailer!
Klores allows his principles the freedom to dictate the mood, but invites friends and family to offer alternate views, giving voice to the growing concern of the audience. Archival footage and newspaper reports are used effectively to set the scene for the media frenzy that would engulf the pair, and the soundtrack supports the many turns of the narrative without ever telling the viewer how to feel. There are scattered moments of humour that defuse the tension, without detracting from the atmosphere.
The skill of the director is evident in this great example of how documentary can enrich filmgoers. He demonstrates the varied reactions of those closest to this saga, without directing us to react in any certain way, and thus allows a portrait to freely evolve in the viewer’s mind. It seems likely that many will react with incredulousness similar to that of the modern-day reporter, although perhaps some will have kinder thoughts for this troubled pair. That Klores is brave enough to allow these varied reactions is to his credit.
Crazy Love is always entertaining, at times horrifying, and yet the final sense is one of satisfaction at seeing an incredible story told so well. Highly recommended.Rating: