The documentary gave rise to "reality TV," and TV returned the favor, with televised newsmagazines giving rise to the cinematic subgenre of the tabloid documentary. Splashy, lurid, you-couldn't-make-this-stuff-up documentaries like Capturing the Friedmans and now Dan Klores' Crazy Love corral compellingly dysfunctional individuals to spill their guts, and if insight emerges, well, there's a lovely bonus. Our car-crash compulsion to look compliments the film's eagerness to dish, but the story on display is as much an aberration of nature as a two-headed goat, and about as relevant to our own lives.
Crazy Love tells the story of Bert Pugach and Linda Riss, whose collision of courtship in 1950s New York left them eternally inextricable. The details are best left unspoken to the uninitiated, as its the documentary's concern to dole them out. Suffice it to say that Bert's behavior escalates from criminal to caddish to criminally insane, Linda's suffering at his hands is profound, and the two remain a couple today. Klores takes a few minutes per person to psychoanalyze each's emotional history, so armchair psychologists can draw connections to explain each's adult behavior in relationships. The only reasonable conclusion is that both individuals are wired wrong, and yet against all reason, it seems only the other could make each individual complete.
"It's Burt and I against the world," says Linda from behind wacky, butterfly-shaped sunglasses and twitchy brow, and under an unconvincing wig. There's a story behind Linda's eccentric appearance, and indeed Crazy Love is one story after another. That the stories are expounded upon by Pugach and Riss themselves—with acquaintances' peanut-gallery one-liners as added seasoning—makes Crazy Love compelling, though hardly a scoop (as Klores shows us, the couple have made the rounds of daytime TV, including—back in the day—Geraldo.
Applying handsome production values, choral commentary in the form of ironic pop songs, and sharp editing by David Zieff, Klores tells this story as well as its ever likely to be told (and bless Jimmy Breslin for cutting through it with straight talk). As stories go, this one's a doozy, guaranteed to elicit gasps and nervous laughter.