Miranda July grapples with the weirdness of the familiar in The Future
This ultra-low-key horror movie of the banal is obviously remote territory for July. The Future is her best film to date and finds her tumbling into a kind of magical realism or plastic fantastic, embodied by a talking cat that becomes the conscience of the movie. "Sometimes I'd see the cat as Sophie and Jason's unborn child and sometimes I would see it as one's own relationship to one's parents — the part of oneself that's always waiting for their parent, long past where that makes any sense at all, even for people whose parents are dead," she explains. "You still, on some level, are waiting for them to come get you, and the death of that hope in a way is both really sad and also maybe the beginning of kind of growing up."
Certain events in Berkeley-bred July's life pointed toward the major turning points of The Future. "I got married at that time, and I think that makes me think a lot about the future — and maybe the end of your life more?" she recalls. "You're committing to someone till the end, so it suddenly seems, at least on paper, that you'll know one person who will be there at the end — or you'll be there at the end of their life. That brought time into focus. Also being a woman in my mid-30s, y'know, you have a special relationship to time suddenly, as far as the question of having children — so all those things were swirling." Yet she claims she never fully realized she'd be grappling with something as potentially horrifying as the future on film: "If I thought I was making a movie about the future, I probably would have not made it —yeah! I don't really attack subjects like that. It has to be more mysterious than that to me. I'm not that conscious when I'm writing."
If we could all see into the future, with an oracle's specs in place, what would we dare to make it out? Peering into the future, as a riot grrrl follower in the late '90s, I would never have imagined sitting across from July, telling her about my pilgrimage up to Yo-Yo a Go-Go in Olympia, Wash., to see her first full-fledged multimedia performance, Love Diamond. The past and future are still intertwined, much as the riot grrrl years continue to resonate with July: she plans to launch the Web archive of her Joanie4Jackie project, which collected women's short films via video chain letter and birthed a community of DIY female filmmakers.
"I still have a lot of friends from that time, so we're all kind of old riot grrrls now!" she says with a little laugh. "It's still great to see that there are things about it that did matter and were really formative, and we're all much better for having had each other and this sense of — call it revolution or call it self-importance. Nonetheless, they weren't easy things we were trying to do, creating a space to feel free and safe to make things in."
THE FUTURE opens Fri/19 in Bay Area theaters.