The history of cinema is littered with tales of love gone wrong. It’s full of tales of passion and obsession and violence all committed in the name of that most sacred of human emotions, love. There’s a reason why these films have such universal appeal and are so prevalent. We, as people, are ultimately slaves to that passion and all of the turmoil and tragedy it brings. Perhaps, that is why 2007’s Crazy Love, a documentary about the relationship of Linda Riss and Burt Pugach, was so fascinating. It combines all of the elements of a great film; violence, passion, betrayal; but it keeps it all within the realm of a true story that almost seems to crazy to believe.

In the 1950’s, Burt Pugach began to date a woman named Linda Riss. Burt was a lawyer who worked in Hollywood and was able to show Linda a life that she could only dream of before. However, the relationship is far from perfect. Burt is incredibly paranoid, territorial, and jealous. He is also married. When Linda refuses to have sex with him before they will ever get married, he becomes convinced she is having an affair and forces her to go to a doctor and prove that she is still a virgin. He stalks and follows her. Eventually, she leaves him and the paranoia and conflict escalates. She becomes engaged to another man. Burt has strangers harass and follow her and attack her. It all culminates when he has a group of men throw acid in her face which permanently disfigures and blinds her. He spends the next 14 years in jail and her fiancee leaves her. I don’t want to ruin where this film ultimately heads but if a movie ever made you question what constitutes love, it’s going to be this film. I was shocked, appalled, and yet I couldn’t look away. It was so bizarre and strange.

The film is structured through a combination of interviews with those involved, including an incredibly candid interview with Burt where he doesn’t shy away from what happened in the slightest and is impressively open about the events of the past. The other major foundation of the film is archival footage and video to lay the groundwork of the different historical eras the film finds itself traveling through. It’s put together very well, and the film does a spectacular job of keeping the film’s final twist from you if you weren’t already familiar with the story, as I wasn’t when I watched.

If you are able to sit through documentaries, which I understand some people are unable to do, you have to watch this movie, perhaps for its ultimate shock value alone. I spent the last 20 minutes of the film talking to myself and yelling at the screen for the sheer insanity that I saw unfolding. It’s an incredibly bizarre and ultimately challenging story that you really just have to see to believe.

Final Score: A-

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