Four Eyed Monsters

2006, Movie, NR, 81 mins

Review

FOUR EYED MONSTERS
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Novice filmmakers Arin Crumley and Susan Buice's charming homemade movie is a surprisingly successful experiment in collaborative creativity that sprang from a larger artistic project: their own real-life relationship. After meeting online, Crumley and Buice attempted to avoid the pitfalls inherent in actually talking to each other — all those arguments, boring conversations and misunderstandings — by putting a strict moratorium on the spoken word. Upon meeting, they communicated through such alternative modes as notes, drawings, text messages and, eventually, video. But disavowing speech brought its own set of problems, and while their relationship eventually wound up on the rocks, the attempt left them with quite a few artistic byproducts from which they decided to create a larger work: a feature-length film about a nonverbal relationship that would inevitably look a lot like their own.
Crumley and Buice star as versions of themselves: Brooklyn-based artists who meet through an online dating service. Each suffers their own loneliness and artistic uncertainties — he's an aspiring filmmaker reduced to editing bar mitzvah videos, she's an art-school grad turned unhappy waitress and beginning to doubt her own creativity. Too shy to show up for their prearranged meeting at the restaurant where Susan works, Arin instead follows her home with his video camera, then e-mails her the images. Susan is more intrigued than creeped out by Arin's stalker approach to modern romance, and anxious not to spoil such a novel beginning with anything as conventional as a date. They again agree to meet, only this time with the proviso that they not speak; instead, they'll communicate through notes and drawings. It seems to work, but shortly after their first sexual encounter Arin throws the first monkey wrench into their grand affair by accusing Susan — through a note, of course — of giving him herpes. Devastated, Susan takes off for a month-long residency at a touchy-feely artists' retreat in Vermont, during which time she and Arin work out their differences and the idea of a future together through a series of videotapes. Once back in New York, Susan grows increasingly disillusioned by the ongoing "experiment," and begins to suspect that Arin's become more interested in the process than in her, and is using media as a means to avoid real intimacy.

Ultimately a cautionary tale about what happens when art is allowed to come between artists, Crumley and Buice's film uses an innovative assemblage of collage, animation, pop music and emerging interpersonal Web phenomena like Friendster and MySpace to develop characters and tell one of the world's oldest stories: Two lonely people attempt to become the dreaded four-legged, four-armed, four-eyed monster known as a "couple." The advent of relatively inexpensive digital-video equipment and do-it-yourself computer-editing software opened up a new avenue of cinematic self-expression for young artists like Crumley and Buice, who produced their entire feature for $50,000. But while their own apparent mania for documenting every aspect of their personal lives (an entertaining series of video podcasts chronicling the drama surrounding the making of the film itself is available on the FOUR-EYED MONSTER website) isn't all that different from the solipsism of, say, Jonathan Caouette's groundbreaking TARNATION, Crumley and Buice's willingness to look outside themselves and question what it all might mean makes the film a more satisfying experience. In June 2007, FOUR EYED MONSTERS became the first full-length film featured on YouTube. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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