Miranda July

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

, /10

Performance artist Miranda July (1974) debuted with Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), a low-key domestic comedy set in an ordinary neighborhood. Pam and Richard are breaking up, and have to decide how they will share chores for their two children, the teenager Peter and the much younger Robby, who both have a darker skin (Pam is black, Richard is white). Trying to entertain them, Richard gets a severe burn on a hand. Richard is a regular working-class type, a shoe salesman in a mall. One day he sells shoes to a woman, Christine, whose day job is to drive around elderly people, and who has ambitions to become a video artist. One day she tries to show her work to famous curator, but the curator tells her to mail it despite the fact that they are face to face. Two teenage girls who routinely pass in front of the house of Richard's coworker flirt with him and he makes erotic comments on them. They kiss to turn him on. He posts erotic notes on his house to tell them what he would like them to do. Then the girls harass Richard's children. When they are online, Richard's children chat with a stranger who pretends to be a girl but they are not sure. She is clearly looking for erotic company. Christine has fallen in love with Richard and, when she has no customers in her car, drives back to the mall. She does strange things to attract his attention. She follows him out and hits on him shamelessly, but he rudely rejects her. The girls, Heather and Rebecca, keep reading erotic messages left for them by the pervent. They get into an argument about who would be better at oral sex, and decide to use Peter as the judge. The girls invite themselves into Peter's house when Richard is not home. Peter asks his little brother to go out. Rebecca and Heather perform oral sex on him to find out who does it better. The daughter of a neighbor, Sylvie, is eavesdropping and watching from the window. Peter can't tell who was best. Christine writes "you" and "me" on her new shoes (that she bought from Richard). She is still stalking him at the mall, and this time he is friendlier. The curator initially rejects Christine's video but then she is intrigued by it. Little Robby gets online without his brother being around and engages in a conversation with the erotic stranger. She wants to meet him in person. Sylvie' s mother takes Peter home when he is sick and Sylvie finds him asleep on the couch when she comes home from school. Peter and Sylvie chat. Sylvie is already planning for her wedding. Heather and Rebecca are now planning to lose their virginity with the neighbor. The curator watches Christine's video until the end, where Christine interrupts the art and simply asks the curator to call and leave a message to show that she really watched it. Christine gets jealous when she sees Richard with his wife (they are actually arguing) and writes "fuck" on her cab's windshield. After finding another erotic message for them posted on the pervert's door, Heather and Rebecca knock at his door, ready to lose their virginity, but he is terrified to see them and doesn't open. Robby is still chatting online with the stranger who sends erotic messages. Peter gives Sylvie a gift that Sylvie can save for when she will have a daughter. They daydream together about her future family life. Robby and the stranger finally meet ain person at a park: the stranger is the curator and is clearly embarrassed to find out that her romantic date is a little child. She kisses Robby tenderly and then leaves. Christine takes care of an elderly man who loves a woman who is dying. When she dies, Christine helps the man set up a video memorial but just then Richard calls and Christine dumps the elderly man and rushes to Richard's house. One early morning Robby finds man standing at a corner and hitting a post with a coin while waiting for the bus: it is a mysterious noise that Robby never could explain. When the man leaves, Robby stares at the rising sun and starts making the same tinning noise.

The Future (2011) is a domestic drama, centered on two failed, passive, lonely characters, that is turned into both a surrealistic extravaganza and an existential dirge, the perfect balance of David Lynch and Michelangelo Antonioni. On one hand there are a talking cat, is a talking moon, a crawling sweater, and a man who can freeze time. On the other hand there are two extremely insecure and unhappy humans, for whom the responsibility of adopting a cat is enough to break nerves and derail goals, obviously a sign that they lived their lives without ever having to take the slightest responsibility. Their communication crisis results in her time dimension accelerating (she sees her girlfriends go through the stages of life in a matter of minutes) and his time dimension to freeze; her spatial dimension being invaded by a silent sweater that gives her the dancing talent she never had, while his spatial dimension is invaded by a talkative Moon that can't do anything for him. She finds solace in a rich middle-aged man, who is happy to use her masochistic passivity, and he in an old self-taught appliance repairman, who seems to know the meaning of life. Metaphors accumulate rapidly, exponentially, until the dead cat attains a metaphysical dimension that seems to relate to the male protagonist's vain and lone crusade to save the planet. By the end, everything is hopeless: the couple's love, the extramarital affair, the cat's wait, the girl's attemp to bury herself, the campaign against global warning...

A narrating cat opens the film with an introduction to a simple couple, Sophie and Jason. Jason jokes with Sophia that he is able to stop time. They have humble jobs and live in a humble apartment. Mostly, they are bored. Sophie teaches dance to children (and is fascinated by the bedroom videos of dancing posted online by an amateur), Jason works from home as a computer troubleshooting consultant. One day they decide a major change in their lives: adop a cat. They find a sick cat at an animal shelter. The cat will need 30 days to be well enough to leave the shelter, and the shelter's veterinarian does not believe the cat will live a long life. At the animal shelter Jason overhears a child disappointed that her father's drawing of her did not find any buyer at a benefit for the animal shelter, so Jason offers to buy it. The adoption of the cat is either the catalyst or a consequence of a general change in their lives. Sophie meditates that, for all practical purposes, life is over at 35, their age. They decide to live the next 30 days as if it is their last. They quit both their jobs: Jason starts going door to door selling trees to save the planet from global warning, while she, alone at home, plans to film herself performing 30 dances in 30 days. Suddenly, she also decides that they should switch off the Internet for 30 days. Jason realizes that he is the only volunteered hired by a fanatical utopian, and Sophie realizes that she cannot film herself. She sounds increasingly neurotic. She talks to herself terrified by the passage of time, staring at the sign that says "Day 1" for the first dance of the series of thirty. She is even jealous that he is having a "fulfilling experience" as if selling trees for a shady benefit constituted a major improvement in his existence that makes her worth less. One day (as the sign still says "Day 1") she notices that the drawing of the child is revealing a phone number. She calls the number and talks to the man who sold the drawing to Jason. He is a middle-aged man, either a widower or divorced. When Jason gets back home, Sophie shouts outside hoping to hear the middle-age man respond. Meanwhile, Jason has befriended an old man who sold him a hair dryer. This old man is a chatterbox but he does know a lot about ordinary appliances. Sophie, feeling guilty that she's hiding her phone conversation with the middle-aged man, offers to buy trees from Jason and Jason asks her what her address is for the delivery (they live together, don't they?) The moment Jason leaves the apartment she calls the middle-aged businessman again. She secretely visits the man, Marshall, while his daughter is in bed with a cold. On a second visit they are just sitting silently on a couch, with nothing to say to each other, when he makes his move. She reacts jumping away scared but then surrenders to him and, leaning on his desk, lets him take her from behind in a passive masochistic role. Meanwhile, her boyfriend is visiting again with the old verbose man, who gives him a gift for his cat that they already happen to have in the house. In a sense he's been cheating on her with the old man, because he never offers her the same quality time that he offers him. At last, in the middle of the night, Sophie tells Jason of her infidelity. Jason stops time for real. Sophie moves in with Marshall and helps his little girl dig a hole in the backyard. Sophie philosophically asks Marshall: "What happens now"? And he prosaically replies: "Now we have sex". To which she inquires about ice cream. Back to the night scene when she tells Jason of her infidelity, Jason turns to the Moon for advice. Every now and then the cat interrupt the story talking about his loneliness and sadness from the cage where it is kept, right in front of a wall-clock. The poor cat can't wait to begin his new life with his new owners. Jason tells the Moon that he misses having another boring day together with Sophie. Sophie finds a new job and one day two of her girlfriends show up. Both are pregnant but Sophie saw them just a few weeks earlier and they were not (perhaps a hint that we cannot trust Sophie with her stories); and then suddenly they are standing in front of her with their grown-up children; and then the children are teenagers as the conversation continues; and then there are only the children, who are now married grown-up adults with a child who wants to enroll in Sophie's dancing class. Jason is still talking to the Moon, angry at the Moon's inability to help him (the Moon says: "I'm just a rock in the sky"). Time is still moving for Sophie while it stopped for Jason. Marshall's daughter buries herself up to her neck in the hole that she dug in the backyard, and plans to spend the night there; but later she walks back home in tears to Sophie's room and demands her drawing back. Sophie makes her dancing masterpiece in a visually arresting scene where she dances wrapped in her shirt, a shirt that was crawling towards her. Marshall stares in silence, disturbed, a disapproving look on his face Jason is still living in the same instant, as indicated by the frozen car traffic. He walks to the beach, staring at the full moon, lifting the clouds with his arms; and suddenly he is staring at the waves in broad daylight. The narrating cat tells us that it died. The animal shelter informs Jason by phone and Sophie learns of the death in person. Jason continues going door to door with his piece of paper, but he lost motivation, and tells his potential customer that it is too late anyway to save the Earth from a climate disaster. Sophie comes back to the aparment and says ok to nothing. But then he starts coughing and moving around the house, indifferent to her presence, and she leaves. He follows her to the stairs and begs her to stay just one night and she walks back up. The cat tells us that it just gave up waiting, but departs from this world, a cat with no owner and in fact not even a cat anymore, while giving some philosophical advice as it enters a world of pure light. Sophie is packing her things.
(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )