Thursday, September 06, 2007

Four Eyed Monsters

One of the hardest things to ignore on, since the day I signed up, has been the constant discussion and advertisement of a film called Four Eyed Monsters. At first I was not very interested, the graphic accompanying all the advertisements, and the general tone I got, gave the impression that this would be a low-key, aggressively quirky, hipster-themed movie that would probably aggravate me. It wasn't that my interest mounted and the constant discussions about the movie pummeled me into wanting to watch it, I just found myself with an hour and a half to kill last night, and no desire to get up off the couch. So with the laptop on my chest, I surfed over to youtube, where the entire movie has been uploaded by the filmmakers, and decided to see what all the hubbub was about. It turns out my original impressions were completely correct, although I wasn't nearly as aggravated as I thought I would be.

From the opening, the film grabbed my attention with a quite simple, but still clever, manner of illustrating how human relationships have evolved, or devolved depending on your point of view. People's Myspace or Facebook profile photos are animated as the images tell the audience what they're looking for, or a little about them. The implication throughout most of the movie is that real, honest, face to face human interaction is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The world is full of lonely people stuck in their apartments, unable or unwilling to make the effort to meet people, and grasping around fruitlessly for some meaningful contact with the outside world.

Our hero is one of those people. Arin is a kid in his early 20s, he lives with a rarely seen but jovially scuzzy roommate and makes wedding videos for little or no money, although he dreams of a more creatively fulfilling job. He also spends his days fantasizing about every woman he meets, or fails to meet, more often then not. His nights are spent on social networking sites, throwing out a buckshot spray of emails, to everyone, hoping to get a response. These messages are pitifully inept, and would under normal circumstances be offputting to the exact type of woman best suited for him. He seems to want a sex object, but his hipster-emo style and complete social ineptitude would suggest that none of those women would give him the time of day. Which, of course, they don't. His inbox remains empty. Until he meets Susan, a young woman with the same artistic temperament, and an overwhelming boredom. Her reply to his slightly inappropriate email, which calls her hot, and requests more pics, is to give him the address of her place of employment, and tell him to just come in one night. This, to normal people, would not be a good idea, and the reasons why become apparent in the film. Arin goes to meet Susan, but his aforementioned social ineptitude makes him leave the restaurant, and hang around outside, following Susan home and filming her all the while. He then emails her a series of pictures of, including one of her sleeping, under the subject "stalking Susan". This behavior could only be found charming in a romantic comedy or by hipsters way too into performance art.

A romance is born, and then dies, and is born again, and then dies, and is... oh hell, you've heard this one before. And yet it plays out with a bit more intrigue, and enough twists to consider it inventive. In keeping with the theme of an uncommunicative society, the two romantic leads never speak directly, spending hours filling pages with notes passed back and forth, or video diaries mailed to each other. Did I mention this film was aggressively quirky? Is this pissing you off yet? Because reading back what I've written, I feel a flash of annoyance. These characters are not very likable. They come across as friendly people, but I've known too many people like this, who view everything as a piece of performance art, and are incapable of relaxing and being themselves, while constantly claiming to be 'true.'

I think it's telling that I keep referring to these people as 'kids', even though they're only a few years younger than me. I think I've grown past the age where I find selfishness and forced kookiness to be attractive qualities in a romantic partner. So as much as I enjoyed the final product, I found myself completely uncaring about what happens later, even though the film is far from the definitive end for these characters. Characters may be the wrong word, because by all accounts this movie is completely autobiographical, with the two leads playing themselves in a direct translation of what they went through. There are even video updates, new 'episodes' on, but I really am not interested. If Susan breaks up with Arin for his selfish controlling and insulting ways, well, good for her. If not, well, good for him; they are very much alike.

In the end, though, I did enjoy this movie. It was fun, sweet, and occassionally hilarious. Plus, I have respect for this DIY feature, which looks anything but, and has a nice visual style, melding various forms of media; Photo collage, stop motion, animation, and even the use of internet web-sites. It's a remarkably polished low budget film, and pretty well paced and acted(although, again, they are playing themselves). So I can't really fault the film, if it's autobiographical and I don't like the characters. Plus it's free, and short, so you could do worse than sit down with this for an hour and 11 minutes. Sounds like faint praise, I know, but it's hard to recommend this to people whose tolerance for asshole characters in a good movie may be lower than my own. Still, I would recommend this overall.

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