Crazy Love (1987)
Cast: Joss De Pauw, Geert Hunaerts, Michael Pas, Gene Bervoets, Amid Chakir
Director: Dominique Deruddere
Nutshell: A delightful, bitter-sweet, tragic-comical fable – akin to Lynch at his best
This Belgian film based on the works of American author Charles Bukowski is about to be released on DVD in a swank special edition by those wonderfully warped folks at Mondo Macabro – and what an absolute little gem it is, the film as well as the DVD.
This wonderfully bizarre “growing up fable gone horribly wrong” delights, shocks and saddens in equal measures and the world created by director Dominique Deruddere borders on the surreal with the dreamlike qualities he creates with sublime camerawork and stunning location. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that Deruddere’s film reminds one of David Lynch’s finest works in that it is able to create a strange, surreal world out of very ordinary situations, people and locations.
The film is broken up into three segments following the life of Harry Voss. We are introduced to Harry as a fresh faced, bright eyed and bushy tailed youngster as he avidly watches a movie, totally entranced by the magical beauty of the angelic, “perfect” creature on screen and how heroically she is carried away to eternal bliss by a handsome prince riding a fine stallion. He lingers on and on in the cinema long after the credits have rolled, trying somehow to keep the magic from fading into the ugliness of the real world. He steals a picture from the lobby card gallery and makes off with it from the cinema elated at having captured some of the beauty for himself.
Sadly all his illusions about the beauty and purity of what love is and what women and men are “really” like are shattered and in one of the films several poignant moments a young 12 year old kid who has recently discovered “sex” asks her if “everything is so ugly” to which she tries to reassure him that there are many beautiful things in life but falters in her explanation. The opening segment is mostly comical yet there is an underlying sadness – a feeling of the innocent bliss of youth being corrupted by the grim realities of adulthood.
The camerawork, the lighting and the locations used by the director are a feature of the films remarkable visual beauty and this opening segment is quite superbly crafted. Another feature is how effectively Deruddere has been able to climb inside of the head of a 12 year old adolescent and capture his inner most thoughts and insecurities and then be able to translate those complex and often confused thoughts on screen. It takes some fine acting, which he gets from child actor Geert Hunaerts and also his own insight which tells him exactly how to compose shots and exactly when enough is enough. There are several pensive shots of Hunaerts where the camera lingers just a little longer than one would usually feel there was need for – these extended shots are the ones that convey a thousand words and feelings and are the hallmark of a director who deeply understands his subject.
If one is lulled into the dream-like world of the idyllic country life of little Harry Voss, one is awakened with the rudest of shocks in the next segment which picks up seven years later in 1962 with Harry on the eve of his graduation problem but with rather a big problem; the worst ever case of acne ever imaginable!
To put it simply, Harry is grotesquely hideous and all his dreams of falling in love have been cruelly crushed by this dreadful affliction for which there is no cure. Yet, his friend persuades him with much difficulty to make an appearance at the Graduation Dance which is another deliciously surreal world created by Deruddere – the band plays on as Harry grapples with his emotions and his desires and his frustrations and ends up nearly ripping himself to shreds in the bathroom before emerging in another of the films amazing scenes to try to win over the girl of his dreams. What follows is as pathetic as it is serene and almost as funny as it is tragic, director Deruddere manages to pull an array of emotional strings quite brilliantly leaving a viewer unsure of whether they should be laughing or crying or both!
The third segment is another shocker as now we see Harry in his 30’s and outwardly the scars may have gone, but they have more than left their mark on his character. He is now a down and out wino who comes across a fellow ex-con and in a drunken spree they steal a fresh corpse from an ambulance and run off with it chuckling like schoolboys. Later they find that the body isn’t that of an old age pensioner as they had assumed but of a gorgeous young woman (the same actress in the film that the 12 year old Harry had been entranced by in the film he watched) whose body is “still warm”.
Things come tragically full circle as there is one final terrible twist in Harry’s life as he tries in vain to acquire something fate has ruled that he can never achieve. It’s a hugely enjoyable minor-masterpiece, mesmerising and entrancing, the film is a twisted sort of Lynchian fable that is quite poetically and exquisitely shot and brilliantly acted and superbly directed. Crazy Love is a quirky and delightful, comical yet tragic film that will linger with you far longer than the most obstinate spot!
Mondo Macabro’s DVD presentation of the film includes a documentary entitled “The Crazy Love Archives” and an interview with director Dominique Deruddere as well as an essay on Crazy Love and Belgian cinema. In addition you will also find some clips from various other Mondo Macabro titles. Crazy Love DVD will be released in the first week of September 2004.