CRAZY LOVE aka LOVE IS A DOG FROM HELL (1987)
A Film by Dominique Deruddere
CRAZY LOVE is another Bukowski-inspired film, this time from Belgium. Mostly based on HAM ON RYE, it charts to life of Harry Voss (essentially Henry Chinaski) at three key moments in his life.
In the first part, Harry is 12 and discovering gals - and masturbation - for the first time. In a slightly creepy scene, he ends up getting shown how to tug off by an older boy. The second section is the most clearly taken from HAM OF RYE, and hooks up with an 18-year-old Harry at his school prom. In that section, Harry is covered in boils and is shunned by other kids. The movie finishes with Harry in his early 30s. He's now a shambling drunk, but he finally manages to find true love. Only the gal is a corpse... and we're treated to a necrophilia scene which is an interesting twist on WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S.
I watched this after seeing the disappointing TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS, and I was pleasantly surprised by CRAZY LOVE. It was said to be Bukowski's favourite adaption of his work and, while I'd put it comfortably below both BARFLY and FACTOTUM, there are a lot of nice touches to the movie.
Harry comes across as both likeably naive and idealistic as a kid, and then he's a lot of loopy fun as a drunk. It's also a nice touch that the 35-year-old Josse De Pauw plays Harry at both aged 18 and 32. Seeing Harry at the prom, clearly way older than the kids around him, works beautifully as a recreation of that cover to the Black Sparrow Press edition of HAM ON RYE, with Bukowski's prematurely aged face sticking out from the crowd.
The section at the prom is the best part, with Harry discovering poetry and booze while realising that gals are disgusted by him. The boils/severe acne make-up is great, and you feel for both Harry and a girl he tries to have sex with. Desperate for female company, Harry starts rubbing his face against hers, and she's so disgusted she has to tell him to leave. Poor old Harry. Even the only way he can get a dance from a girl is to wrap his face in toilet paper, creating that "Invisible Man" feeling that Bukowski liked in HAM ON RYE. One side note, I felt much of the scene trying to figure out where I'd seen Harry's best friend before. Then it clicked, it's the guy who plays Rex Hoffman in the brilliant THE VANISHING (1988). Never knew he was Belgian.
The criticisms of CRAZY LOVE are only minor ones. The dialogue isn't sparkling, and doesn't have any of the humour or philosophical insight of both BARFLY and FACTOTUM. CRAZY LOVE also isn't brilliantly directed, with a slight TV movie feel. It looks fine, but it doesn't capture the same sleazy vibe as BARFLY or the arty, empty feel of FACTOTUM.
Anyway, give CRAZY LOVE a chance. It's a nice Bukowski fix for fans of Buk, and a decent little movie for the rest of you. At the very least, the memorable ending will stick with you for a few days.
Review by Steve Hussy