What’s the matter…cat got your to tongue?
In Miranda July’s latest film, The Future, it’s actually just the opposite…July has the cat’s tongue.
If you know anything about July’s previous works you won’t be terribly surprised when the first few moments of The Future consists only of a black screen with July’s child-like voice-over as a stray cat reaching out to us in desperate need of some love and affirmation.
The cat, which we come to know as Paw Paw, helps weave the narrative that finds Sophie (Miranda July) and her boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater) working through their sense of alienation and a deep seeded need to get control of their personal and professional lives.
The film has been described as quirky and idiosyncratic – which is meant as a compliment more than anything else. The film had certainly found an audience during its festival circuit run and more recently audiences have been giving it a favorable nod during its commercial release in New York & LA.
After several weeks of reading what the major film critics and bloggers on the east and west coast have to say, filmgoers (and Miranda July fans) in Seattle finally get the chance to catch The Future this weekend and weigh in with their own opinions.
July was in town earlier this year at the Seattle International Film festival to promote her film where I had the opportunity to sit down with her to discuss her recent work, the state of independent filmmaking and her future plans.
Are you hoping this movie follows the same path as your first film – Me and You and Everyone We Know?
In the simplest sense it’s in the same camp. It’s got a distributor and it comes out in the summer so there’s nothing radically different about this film in terms of distribution. The first movie is more of a comedy which is very inviting. And I think for everyone at Roadside Attractions – which is distributing it – sees this film as also pretty accessible.
Aside from a filmmaker, you are also a multi-media/performance artist and an author. How do you decide which medium you are going to work in for a particular project?
Usually it is pretty straight forward. With a book, I just sense that I need to write a book– all of these ideas I’m having are clearly for the book – or for the movie if I’m working on a movie. However, this movie in particular began as a staged performance. When I conceived this work I did have it in the back of my mind that the performance might evolve into what I thought was a way more avant garde, audience participatory movie…like a new kind of movie.
And then when the performance was done (which was performed in New York at The Kitchen) and I looked back, I thought it turned out good and it was something I really liked. But I think it was long enough after my first movie that I was suddenly thinking that I didn’t want to tour the world with this performance – I wanted to make another movie. And I actually thought this could be even more interesting in a less avant garde context.
How different is this finished film from the performance it was based on?
It is so different. A couple of people have seen both and tripped out. It’s like having an acid trip experience versus reading a novelization of it.
With the performance I was totally loose on what even constituted a narrative. You got the story – but I cast real members of the audience. So in the stage performance a real couple played the couple you see in the film…although sometimes I would play the man and the woman at different times. And the whole audience also participated in unison in different ways. So I was super interested in a lot of stuff that only had to do with live performance – which I am again, now that I’ve done the movie. There is something compelling to me about that aspect which is just separate from what you can do with film.
This film was financed out of Germany. What are your thoughts on the current state on financing for Independent films?
Well, it’s not good. I started right out before the recession and everyone was excited about the project. And the budget started out something like five times what it ended up being…and no one was worried. Then the recession hit and it really did have an impact. A lot of these companies were just told they needed to drop half their projects. So we suddenly had to think really differently about the project.
I shot it in 21 days just to get the cast I wanted and to work with these German and British financing companies who were so supportive.
You work in various disciplines – do you have a favorite?
I feel very committed to writing fiction, to doing performances and to making movies. Also to sculptural art which is newer to me. It’s pretty much just rotating between the disciplines.
So I’m in the exact same spot I was in when I finished the first movie. I’m writing a book now, in the back of my mind I’m working on a performance and in the way back of my mind I’m starting to think about the next movie.
What’s your artistic process when you approach these different disciplines?
I start out really loose…not needing to know. Not needing to know if it’s good or bad, or if it’s really ever going to turn into something. That’s pretty important for me to go forward into it – finding clues and putting things together. And then after a while you start to ask, Does this matter?” With a script there’s so much vetting – so many questions that are asked of you. I go through so many more notes from people so ultimately you do have to be able to give some kind of answers to what it all means.
Miranda July’s latest film, The Future, opens today at Harvard Exit. Visit Landmark Theaters for showtimes.