Picking up on a global trend generally ignored by Yank filmmakers, young Gothamites Arin Crumley and Susan Buice blend autobiographical documentary and staged drama in “Four Eyed Monsters.” Fascinating if overly self-involved Slamdance entry is among the few U.S. pics that deliberately smudges the line between non-fiction and invention as it tells how Crumley and Buice meet online and develop a relationship. Fest programmers sniffing out new voices should pay attention, while commercial prospects seem destined for edgy cable.
Crumley is seen as a shy videographer lensing other people’s weddings and aware he’s dateless; Buice’s artistic aspirations are curtailed by having to waitress jerky New Yorkers. He’s ignored by most women and seems undone by the thought of three disastrous dates that reveal his paranoia of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Pair finds each other on a singles Web site, communicating through pics, diary entries and drawings — some of which develop into enchanting pencil animations.
A stay at a pretentious Vermont artists’ retreat doesn’t seem to inspire Buice, but it’s notable that after this visit, she and Crumley spend time together and manage a few healthy sexual breakthroughs. After she confronts him about being something of a paranoid control freak, their mutual understanding leads to the making of the film being viewed.
Sometimes edited at a meditative pace that lingers on the couple’s joy in finding each other, this auto-portrait loosely blends actual footage shot during various phases of the relationship with restaged scenes. Neither type of shooting can ever be precisely identified as “doc” or “drama,” which nicely conveys to the viewer the pair’s sense of discovery, as well as memories, of each other. At the same time, an unmistakable grip of collective narcissism and New York art school aesthetic takes hold of the project and never lets go.
In the dreamy state of consciousness the film often projects, many viewers may note how Crumley and Buice begin to eerily resemble each other, to the point where they begin to look like brother and sister as much as lovers.
Lensing stresses pixilated digital imagery, and Andrew Peterson’s throbbing guitar music provides terrific accompaniment.