Burt Pugach and Linda Riss were just two New Yorkers when they started dating in 1957 — she a beautiful working girl, he a nebbish but lucrative lawyer — but over the next three decades they became America’s most bizarre couple, riding their up-and-down rollercoaster of a relationship in the face of wary friends, criminal accusations, and the bewildered public.
Director Dan Klores explores this peculiar romance in "Crazy Love," a vivid and engrossing portrait of obsessive love and attachment that layers archival photos, music, and media with firsthand accounts from Burt, Linda, and their baffled friends. Without giving away the film’s gut-punch (though many still remember the headline-worthy pair from tabloids and talk shows), suffice to say this is a couple that should not be together or happy under any circumstances — yet are, for reasons that are impossible to comprehend.
Or maybe not. The obsessed Burt, now an old man, recounts his lifelong love for Linda (and his affairs, duplicity and legal troubles) in ways so passionate and heartfelt that one could maybe understand just how he could have hurt the woman he loved so terribly. Then again, even Burt’s friends admit he’s a bit of a kook — others call him disturbed and psychopathic — and seem to embrace his moral ambiguity as a personality quirk ("Even Hitler had friends," one pal jokes).
What’s even more incomprehensible is the fact that Linda has opted to stay with, and marry, a man who at one point in her life had terrorized her during bouts of jealousy and arguably ruined her life. She’s a sassy lady, taking some joy in needling her husband with demands and jibes, but virtually helpless without him. We suspect that’s the way he likes it; we also understand why she’d rather be with him than be alone.
Klores makes good use of the candor of his subjects, who address the camera and spill their thoughts and feelings on events dating back three decades. He also makes great musical choices, using songs that at once evoke an era and reflect the mental state of lovers in the throes of affection, detachment, and obsession (like the Miracles’ "You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me": "Though you treat me badly/I love you madly").
"Crazy Love" made headlines this weekend as the first sale of Sundance, going to Magnolia Pictures for a reported "mid six figures."