Digital video technology presents documentary fans with a double-edged sword: Now, a filmmaker can bring almost any story to the screen without having to worry about the economy of film ... and, it seems, without having to think about the art of storytelling. I can't think of a better exhibit than Crazy Love; co-directed by PR maven Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens, it tells the story of Burt Pugach and Linda Riss. As Burt and Linda explain in interview footage looking back from the here-and-now, they met in the '50s; he was a well-to-do lawyer with links to the movie biz, and she was a striking and vivacious beauty with an effervescent spirit. Their relationship was whirlwind, glamorous, exciting -- and a sham, as Burt was already married. Linda left him and started dating, got engaged ... and Burt hired three men to throw caustic lye in Linda's face, reasoning that if he couldn't have her, no one else could or would.
The idea that Burt would be willing to speak about this on-camera is startling enough, but as the film unfolds, it's explained that after Burt's release from prison in 1971, the two got married and have been with each other ever since. I know that there are relationships in the world that are, at best, sick and delusional; at the same time, I don't want to hear about them. And, frankly, you have to wonder what light bulb went off over Klores and Stevens's heads that made them say This, this is a story we MUST bring to the screen! Crazy Love wants to be a portrait of obsession -- right down to the oh-so-knowing quote from Lacan that opens the film -- but it simply feels like a feature-length version of any episode of The Jerry Springer Show, where unlikable people demonstrate they have no shame by carefully detailing their twisting and idiotic hate-fueled squalid past and unhappy present.
We see Burt and Linda -- her blind from his attack, him implicated in a similar affair with a new mistress ten years ago -- playfully bantering with each other and you cannot shake the feeling that if you had to spend five minutes around these toxic, foolish and damaged people, you would either kill them or yourself just to end the experience. There's nothing romantic about physically hurting someone you supposedly love; Crazy Love suggests, hey, it seemed to work out okay for these wacky kids. Crazy Love isn't just a great demonstration of how, in the age of digital documentary filmmaking, maybe every story you can bring to the screen doesn't have to be told. It also makes you wonder about the cold calculus of the film festival circuit: What movie didn't get in to Sundance because this horrible, clammy, grim and pathetic tale of co-dependent madness did?