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“Crazy Love”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Crazy Love,” Magnolia Pictures, 2007]

“Crazy Love” could only work as a documentary. If you tried to pass off this story, about a man and a woman who marry years after he blinded her by dousing her with acid, as an invention, no one would believe it. And yet here it is, complete with old photographs, newsreels and articles (“Acid Thrower Blinds Girl” screams a typical headline). They say it takes all kinds. Well, some of those kinds are severely deranged.

Burt and Linda Pugach met in the Bronx in the 1950s. She was a young girl he spotted one day on a bench; he was an unscrupulous ambulance chaser who would ask all of his female clients a simple question — “Yes or no?” Many said no, but enough said yes to keep him happy until he met Linda. After that, there was only one woman for him. Pity he didn’t tell his wife.

Their meeting is as cute as a sitcom but their lives even before their relationship were as stormy as something out of a Douglas Sirk movie (and who’s ever accused Sirk of aping reality too closely?). Burt was abused by his mother; Linda never had any positive male role models. And when Linda gets engaged to another man, Burt loses his mind. He hires men to threaten her in the hopes that she’ll be so afraid she’ll come running back to him. When that doesn’t work, he buys a gun and plans to kill her fiancé, but can’t bring himself to do it. So he hires someone else to knock on her door, claiming to have an engagement present. He throws lye in her face and blinds her.

Before we go on, a question: who throws acid at someone? This is how supervillains are created in Batman comic books! Actually, comic books might be the only other place where a story as straight-up insane as this one could come across as something approaching believable. It’s also the only place you’d expect someone to look like Pugach did during his darkest periods, with a thin moustache and beard and a downright Satanic gleam in his eyes. Even as he discusses those events with the hindsight of decades, Pugach still sounds a little off. Journalist Jimmy Breslin calls him “the most visibly insane man he’s ever met that’s not institutionalized” and it’s easy to see why.

Some have argued that “Crazy Love” tells a great story but that director Dan Klores doesn’t necessarily tell it in a great way. There’s a fair point to be made there; Klores isn’t a particularly revolutionary or formally experimental filmmaker. But consider how easy it would have been to turn “Crazy Love” into a freak show or a circus, the way the media did when Burt and Linda went through all of this the first time. Klores never does; and he gets candid interviews from both that run the gamut from charming to chilling. The portrait that comes out is well-rounded; even if you still can’t quite grasp how these two ultimately wound up together. But, really, who could? Even some of their closest relatives couldn’t.

Above all, “Crazy Love” shows us a glimpse of unvarnished humanity, where old people use phrases like “handjobs” and where a woman justifies her marriage to a man responsible for her disfigurement by calling herself “damaged goods.” Someone in the film suggests that Burt having to care for the woman he harmed was some sort of ironic revenge, and it is. But you couldn’t have written that into a script a million years. Not one anyone would buy, anyway.

“Crazy Love” opens in limited release June 1st (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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