Some indie filmmakers radiate such a curious obsessive energy that you just can just about figure what their films are going to be like without seeing them. This needn’t result in any kind of conscious decision not to see their films, mind, but it does seem to manifest a strange and concentrated inner force that blocks any attempt to do so. It makes the decisions like a stern parent. My head says “hmm, yeah, I think I’ll see this flick” but the force steps in and says “nope, forget it…you don’t want to go there.” So don’t blame me.
I don’t know why”the force” has kept me from seeing Miranda July‘s films. Or maybe it’s my own determination. I don’t know. I know early on I could sense the ethereal, foo-foo vibrations coming off the posters and trailers and reviews the way a proverbial old-timer can feel approaching rain in his bones.
It first hit me when July’s You and Me and Everyone We Know played at the ’05 Cannes Film Festival. I had it on my list, intended to see it, etc. But I was no match for the higher power.
It happened again when Manhattan-based publicist Susan Norget enthusiastically described July’s latest film, The Future (Roadside, 7.29) , prior to last January’s Sundance Film Festival, where it had its world debut. The second she began talking about it, I just knew. Nobody works harder for or cares more about quirky-weird indie films than Norget, but Norget + July + a little Silverlake movie about a couple thinking about adopting a cat who talks…case closed.
But forget me or “the force” or The Future. Forget all of that. All you need to know about July, I believe, is contained in this short video clip of her doing a kind of whirling stumble-dance on the beach. (The clip accompanies the online version of Katrina Onstad‘s 7.17 N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine profile of the 37 year-old filmmaker.) On one level her dancing is appalling, but on another level it’s brave because true artists never worry about looking foolish — they just dance to their tune and let the chips fall. The dancing tells me July is no poseur. She’s the genuine sum of her parts.
The other thing that provides significant information about July are the leather broad-buckle shoes she’s wearing in the clip. I’ve been around the planet long enough to know that aside from the usual exceptions-to-the-rule, women who wear this kind of footwear are generally not the kind you want to hang with for very long. They may be intelligent and perceptive or even exceptional artists, but they tend to brandish a certain flighty, fickle, tangled-up quality, and are therefore best encountered in small, modest doses. 97% of guys find broad-buckle shoes a massive turn-off. They’re the 21st Century equivalent of those lace-up witch shoes worn by older women who taught elementary school in the ’60s. Women like July know this, of course, and that’s partly why they wear them.
Which is cool — don’t get me wrong. Let your freak flag fly, etc. I’m just saying that those shoes are a blade of grass repping the entire July universe.
But that fucking cat…wow. That and the idea that adopting a cat requires some degree of emotional preparation.
The paragraph that got me in Onstad’s profile reads as follows: “[July] has also become the unwilling exemplar of an aggravating boho archetype: the dreamy, young hipster whose days are filled with coffee, curios and disposable enchantments. ‘Yes, in some ways Miranda July is living my dream and life, and yes, maybe I’m a little jealous,’ wrote one Brooklyn-based artist on her blog. “I loathe her. It feels personal.”
“To her detractors (‘haters’ doesn’t seem like too strong a word) July has come to personify everything infuriating about the Etsy-shopping, Wes Anderson-quoting, McSweeney’s-reading, coastal-living category of upscale urban bohemia that flourished in the aughts. Her very existence is enough to inspire, for example, an I Hate Miranda July blog, which purports to detest her ‘insufferable precious nonsense.’ Or there is the online commenter who roots for July to be exiled to Darfur. Or the blogger who yearns to beat her with a shoe.”