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Four Eyed Monsters

In 2002, Arin Crumley and Susan Buice met on an Internet dating service. Crumley hatched the idea that the two struggling artists would communicate solely through “notes, pics, music and videos.” When they had sex for the first time, they had never spoken to one another, though they had exchanged plenty of post-it notes. A year later, they quit their jobs, went deeply into debt, and made a feature film about their peculiar relationship. It’s called Four Eyed Monsters — Crumley’s term for romantic couples.

The film was accepted by the Slamdance Film Festival and premiered there in January 2005. It has since been seen at 18 festivals. Unable to find a distributor, Crumley and Buice have distributed it themselves. People vote on their website, and if there are at least 150 votes in a city, they arrange for it to be shown there. There are showings in six cities during September. In New York, it will be seen every Thursday in September at the IFC Film Center, 323 Sixth Avenue at West Fourth Street. A friend and I saw it last week.

Without Crumley’s “no speaking” rule, there would be nothing worth watching about the relationship of two New York twenty-somethings. That, and the couple’s very dark sense of humor, make Four Eyed Monsters compelling viewing. Crumley and Buice are so insecure that it would take years on an analyst’s couch to work out their inner demons. But they are able to laugh about themselves and their artistic alienation, without which the film would be an overly precious exercise in navel-gazing.

The film also has an under-current of what one audience-member called meta-narrative. It’s a film about two people who decide to make a film about their relationship, and the film they make is the one you’re watching. Crumley and Buice do a compelling job of dramatizing the early days of their relationship, cleverly mixing animation and live action. Some of the film is a re-creation of past events, and other parts are the actual videos and e-mails that they exchanged while they were dating. It’s no small feat to re-tell your own story, and then act it out too, without boring the audience. Crumley and Buice have managed it.

Early on — it might actually be the first date — their relationship hits a snag that would probably stop 99% of relationships dead in their tracks. That it doesn’t is attributable to two factors. Buice has never created anything on her own that she is happy with. And Crumley wants to get laid regularly, something he has never done before meeting Buice. What begins as a romantic relationship turns into a cottage industry. A series of video podcasts available on their website is partly, made in the film’s same edgy style, blurs the line between soap opera and marketing.

My friend, who is romantic at heart, pointed out that we never see an actual romance. “Do they even hold hands?” she asked? No, they don’t. It is entirely commercial. The relationship and the product have become one. We disagreed on which of the two leads is more appealing. My friend found Buice chilly and sterile, while I had the same reaction to Crumley. While both share the directing, producing, editing, acting and writing credit, it appeared to both of us that Crumley is the artistic mastermind. The no-talking rule, without which there would be no film, was his idea. When it wore out its welcome with her, he insisted on continuing it.

Crumley and Buice attended the screening and took questions afterwards. There’s a small coterie of groupies following their appearances. Someone in the audience wanted to ask whether the couple are still together (there were Internet rumors of a split), but he couldn’t just come out and ask it. Buice finally rescued him, and said they still live in Williamsburg, and sleep together on a twin mattress. Another audience member congratulated them on giving a better answer than they did last time (whenver that was).

Crumley said that we’d seen a new cut of the film, including an improved ending. Some people in the audience thought it still needed work, while others advised them to leave it alone. Buice suggested that perhaps the time was coming to “stick a fork in it,” but Crumley suggested that the tweaking might continue. Do they have another great project in them? Their website links to a short film that Buice did by herself. It’s awful.

Four Eyed Monsters, however, is a clever experimental film, and well worth checking out.

Reader Comments (2)

Thanks a bunch for talking about the film, even your blog post is not entirely made up of compliments, there in there, kind of burried, but ultimately, I think what your saying is that your kind of into it.

You know what, thats okay. We know that our video podcasts are sort of a closet addiction, a little weird to admit to friends your into because of what that means about ones self. I know it's a freakishly weird project and has all kinds of qualities that really shouldn't have appeal, crap, a lot of times we don't like it, but utltimately I think the implications are bigger then "Susan" and "Arin", I don't really care about showcasing us as people, or showcasing our abilities, really we aim to touch on more universal ideas and concepts that are more current then anything mainstream is able to touch.

A few corrections:

We live in bushwick, not williambsburg. Also, I'm not the mastermind, it takes two to tango, the idea to not talk means nothing if you don't have someone that is down to do that with you, most girls would have said "screw you jerk", and in terms of working on the movie, it goes far beyond susan simply being willing to partcipate, we've both done each of the roles you mentioned above, writing, acting, editing, directing etc... each to equal degrees. In production there were alwasy more people then just susan and I, even if it was only one other person, so I could see making an argument that with out help, the two of us don't have t he ability to do something good, but the video podcast had partially been our way of proving to ourselves that we shouldn't worry about that. But we are a creative team and we do know for a fact that our sum is greater then our parts, and that is true for both me and for susan. Basically, I could give you some links to some hidious stuff I've done, and susan has done bad stuff in the past too, but the video you linked to is not one of those bad things, we still think it's good at what it was aiming to be and to talk about that as a demonstration of susan's abilities with out me is just idiotic because both of us were only really filmmakers about half way into making a feature film, we are the type that learned on the job, we aren't trained, we aren't those filmmakers that have made dozens of awesome short films before they embark on their feature, why, because we don't really give a crap about filmmaking, we like stories, and once we had our story, there was no reason to delay and develope the craft any further then we needed to in order to get the story across. Now, incedentelly, we do use craft to create aesthetic which we think is the second most important thing after the story, and once again, aesthetic is something susan and I equally contribute and is unique to our team effort and would be very different if we weren't working together.


Don't know how it's labled as "commercial" to not have more hugs, kisses and holding hands. First of all that stuff is cheesy, so I'm glad we don't have it, second, that is exactly what hollywood would have caked through out this type of a story, why, well I guess because the lemmings want it.

So our approach of, as you put it, "sterile" and "cold" encounters that ultimately add up to what is a, lets face it, a disfunctional relationship, is obviously not a big money maker, but what we hope is that it's truthful and for that reason people find it valid.

But if you were suggesting our relationship is some how a facade to generate commercial gain, WOW! That is giving us some serious masterminding credit, we've always been honest about presenting the strengths and weaknesses our relationship has, it's not perfect, which is why we always hesitate to say, "yes, we are madly in love and getting married next month" when the audience asks us in Q&A's if we are still together.

That said, mixed with all of the hardship, Susan and I have an amazing time together and want that to go on, and the only reason we are sleeping on a twin air matress is because our building was just treated for bed bugs and rather then sleep in a chemical doused bed, we decided to inflate our guest bed for ourselves. But, today we went to ridgewood and ordered a new bed coming tomorrow.

Another note about the word "commercial" used in your blog post. Trust us, we are not making any money, nor do we intend to. Our only goal with FEM is to break even, get out of the credit card debt we are in from having made the film. That may be too "lofty" to think that the world works that way, but what if it did, I'd like to think all artists and creators would be rueting for that because that would be a great sign for everybodies endevours that they wish they could do full time. I only bring this up so that people don't resent the idea that, "YES, we do want people to go out to theaters and pay to see our creation!!" And we don't feel there should be any shame in that. And just because our film is personal in nature doesn't mean it isn't our lifes work from the past 3 and a half years of full time 16 hour days and I would hope that it could all pay off and pay for it's self. How exactly it will do that is yet to be seen, and it definetely won't happen from theatrical profits, but people showing up and seeing the film does help a little, and is therfore hugely appreciated.

Here is the link to the short film described by you as awful, is that really the right word? Maybe others can post comments to be the judge:


The "can we do it again?" question:
Does it matter? Also who is to say we even plan to? Maybe our next project won't take shape in the form of a narrative film, maybe it will be something else. If you are looking to track a tradditional trojectory of a filmmaking career, your in the wrong place. We already don't fit the mold in that we've commited to creating a video podcast that now has 73 minutes of content that some say rival the quality of our actual film. So maybe we already have done it again in a different medium, and I wouldn't be suprised if we jumped into yet another medium before maybe if we feel like it, make another film.

Anyway, bottom line, glad to be a part of your blog even if I don't know if I can stand behind everything I wrote above, or if I can even stand behind who I am as a person, especially the person you've described me as, but I think the reason people work on Art is that they want to "create" something they can stand behind, and susan and I both totally stand behind our film and our video podcast.
Take it easy and good luck with your projects,
Arin & Susan
September 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterarin crumley
Thanks to Arin for his comment. When I go back and read my posts, I usually find things I'd like to revise. But as Arin has commented on the original version, I don't think that would be fair. I wrote what I wrote, so I have to stand by it.

I basically agree with Arin that the "lovey-dovey" stuff (holding hands, smooching) would not quite fit in the aesthetic of this film. I did not mean to suggest that Arin and Susan themselves exist only as a commercial enterprise.

Also, by using the word "commercial," I certainly was not suggesting that it has become profitable.

I think it's fair to say that I warmed up to Susan more so than Arin, but my friend warmed up to Arin more so than Susan. "Chilly and sterile" weren't the exact words we used when we de-briefed after the film, and probably they aren't the best words to have chosen in the blog post.

I do agree that the video podcasts, in a way, rival the quality of the film itself. They continue the dark humor and the meta-narrative structure, and I found them addictive viewing.

Again, thanks for commenting.
September 11, 2006 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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