DVD Review/Interview: 'The Future' Filmmaker Miranda July On Time, Mortality and Working With Wayne Wang
If there’s one word that accurately encapsulates the actress/performance artist/writer and director that is Miranda July it’s enigma. Being one of the most unique, unconventional and altogether honest talents working in entertainment today, July is a one-woman force to be reckoned with. Her latest film outing titled "The Future" (available now on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment) is no less potent, a tale of a thirty-something couple that decide to adopt a stray cat and find their very life together and time itself changing. It’s one curiously inimitable look at the hope and heartache of relationships that could only come from the weird and wonderful mind of July herself. So along with a review of the film, we’re also chatting one-on-one with the fascinating and highly underrated July who talks about shooting "The Future" overseas to maintain her vision, early high-profile casting options and even comes clean about her work with Wayne Wang on the controversial film "The Center of the World" – it’s one candid five-star chat you won’t want to miss!
Title: "The Future"
Cast: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky
Director: Miranda July
Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Company: Lionsgate
The Flick: On the surface "The Future," about a couple that decides to adopt a stray cat and it becomes their undoing, seems like a film that frankly should not work. It’s slow, houses a lot of hidden meanings and is so odd at times that it would make David Lynch scratch his head in confusion. But all of the above filtered through the inspired mind of Miranda July somehow provides a can’t-take-you-eyes-off-it quality that keeps even naysayers interested. Whether it be the oddities of wide-eyed July herself (she becomes unhealthily obsessed with making a YouTube dance video!), the strange symbolism (the scene with wonderful actor Hamish Linklater trying to re-start the ocean is definitely out there!) or even the random thoughts from a scared cat (with a high pitched voice that sounds a lot like...Miranda July!), "The Future" is for those rare fans who come from the Atom Egoyan school of film appreciation where patience is a virtue.
Best Feature: No question – it’s the Jack "The Hidden" Sholder-esk honest audio 'Commentary' with July (she calls out an extra for not being in the scene!) that’s the cinematic gold in the DVD extra hills.
Best Hidden Gem: There’s a single 'Deleted Scene' – that’s just as peculiar as the rest of the film!
Worth the Moola: For the film fan looking for something beyond the norm, Miranda July (and Paw Paw!) has got you covered.
Still need more insight into the wonderful world of weird? Here’s...
I’m fascinated by the fact that the idea for the film came from performance art – what was the leap from that to then making a feature?
Miranda July: First you have to keep in mind that my performances are very scripted – there’s lines and characters. Paw Paw was there doing his monologues much in the same format and the basic story was there including stopping time and all that. It’s just that it happened in this abstract world. When you’re in a black box theater you’re not in apartments and on streets you don't have to be as literal. You can take great leaps without it being particularly weird because that’s just a more avant-garde world, which is great and I love that. And I did everything you could do with that as far as having massive amounts of audience participation in the performance. But I also really love narrative and I love that you are in the real world with movies and I could see that unlike a lot of performances of mine, this really was more of a story then anything else – a tellable story that I wasn’t done with.
The film doesn’t easily fit into a single film category, which I liked, but how would you describe it?
MJ: I saw it as this somewhat epic, and I know it’s a small movie, but in another way it’s dealing with things that are almost on a fable scale. Like the man has to walk across the city to re-start the ocean to start time again, you know? So I always thought of it in that way - I was dealing with basic things about people and about time and mortality. And that in order to be accurate and new about those things, I had to move freely and take a leap away from a traditional way of addressing these very traditional human plights. I also saw it as pretty sad – my way of making something that wasn’t a heartwarming crowd pleaser.
You mentioned in the commentary that the film was European funded – what ultimately made you want to seek funding not in America?
MJ: In part it was the saving grace of the first movie having done really well in Europe for an indie movie. Because the recession hit right at the time we were trying to get money and there was a very conservative climate and a movie like this without a star in the US – not appealing. Even for people who really were fans, companies that I had become friendly with, there was just a lot of pressure to cast up, which I was open to until I couldn't really find anyone that I liked more than Hamish Linklater in that role. So then I was really quite grateful that there were these European companies, all of whom we had some kind of relationship with already. It was like we’re going to be doing this movie for super cheap just like the last movie, but like the last movie I have total creative freedom and freedom of casting. It’s not a good time in the US for movies at that budget range – maybe a much smaller movie could have gone forward.
David Warshofsky is one unconventional casting for the role of the man your character has an affair with – what ultimately made you choose him?
MJ: He’s exactly what I wanted. The plan was that it should be the last person you would think of my character with and you should just feel these two people have no common ground – how are they even existing in the same space? It makes it clear that this is not so much an affair of passion or that she’s falling in love, it’s more of an escape out of all the things she feels stuck in. He could care less if she’s an artist or not – she’s just this woman. Which is, for someone like me, it’s always funny to me when I come across men like that, you know? Like maybe on an airplane or something and I realize, ‘Oh, I’m just a woman’. It really doesn’t matter what I do or how unique I am, he’s talking to me because he wants to talk to a woman. (Laughs) And there’s something about that - like an attraction and repulsion.
Also you mentioned on the track that there were others up for that part – anyone we might know?
MJ: It’s funny, there’s someone I mention in my book It Chooses You that just came out that has some overlap with the movie. Because I do mention it in there – I met with Don Johnson. And so it’s safe to say that and I only am saying that because I think he passed on me and I would never mention someone that I considered and passed on. But it was funny to me that we met. I went to his house and we talked and he’s really nice. But when you get into that age range and you’re open minded, there’s a lot of people, for me, that are the heartthrobs of my teenage years who I would hunt down and be like what’s going on with them now. He’s not that obscure, but some people had not fared well and there was a reason we had not heard from them!
He should have definitely done this movie! So how much resistance was there to the Paw Paw sections in the film?
MJ: I mean it was always a very mixed thing. There were always people who would die by Paw Paw being important and definitely there were people that grew as I worked on that part, which was the final piece of the movie. Like the voice-overs, I knew I could just keep working on that till the very end and I did. By the last screenings with friends and stuff, people were so devastated with the outcome that I was knew people were invested. But there always were a couple people who said take it out – take the whole thing out. Some people I respect, but I had to realize that there are scenes that exist and scenes that I like that are kid of like cilantro – some people love it, some people hate it. It’s okay and there’s a place in the world for stuff like that. I’m not running for office and I don’t need to get every single vote.
I have to ask about your work with Wayne Wang on "The Center of the World." I’m fascinated with Wayne, especially the film "Life is Cheap, But Toilet Paper is Expensive," a film of his that I loved that he has always tried to bury. But as far as "The Center of the World," what was his process as far as working with him and what exactly did you contribute to that film?
MJ: Work with him is almost an exaggeration. What it was - a series of interviews. He essentially interviewed me about my sex life because I was the age of the character and I think he saw something of the character in me. So I was living in Portland and I was twenty-five or twenty-six or something and I would fly down to San Francisco to the offices at Zoetrope and he would just ask me questions and I would talk. I remember at the time it just seemed like an amazing source of income (laughs) for a very poor artist. But he was super interesting too. And on that movie I never saw a script and I never had any involvement beyond that, although I did end up with a massive credit – Story by – which was utterly confusing to me, but...(Laughs)
I’m utterly fascinated - what’s next for you?
MJ: I’m working on a novel, so it will be a while before you hear anything from me. (Laughs)
Keep it up! Highly original stuff – and higher marks for a great commentary!
MJ: (Laughs) Thank you!
"THE FUTURE" IS AVAILABLE ON DVD NOW FROM LIONSGATE HOME ENTERTAINMENT.