A few days ago, I was lucky enough to interview Miranda July about her beautiful film The Future. In her second full-length film, July plays the role of a woman faced with losing her freedom in life and the ways in which she rebels against her fate. The film is being released in select theaters on July 29, but we have insights into the film’s production and messages to pique your interest. Join me after the jump!
Miranda July has produced art not just through her films, but also through books, spoken word, and performance art. It was through one of July’s performances that she came up with the concept for The Future. Titled Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About, July’s performance centered on an affair just as The Future does. However, the performance was something new each time, as the couple was played by a real couple July chose from the audience each night. July took care of the new actors with hidden directors, and for some actors, there were definite echoes that resonated with their own lives. In fact, July may release the story of one woman who was tremendously affected by playing out the part. Still, the performance ended up being too nerve-wracking in terms of what could go wrong to take it on tour.
Instead, July worked the concept into a more complex script to follow-up her 2005 film debut Me and You and Everyone We Know. Unlike that film, The Future comes across much bleaker, following the lives of a young couple, Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (July), committed to adopting a stray cat. When they realize the cat will consume their remaining free time due to the care it requires, they panic and begin living their last month of freedom as though they were dying. Soon, Sophie is falling into despair and reaching out to an older man for a release from her impending responsibilities.
As the film progresses, Jason find himself interacting with an old man named Joe, who sells him things and acts as some sort of guide. The actor, Joe Putterlik, is actually playing himself. July revealed that she found Putterlik through the PennySaver classifieds while creating her book The Penny Saver, a collection of interactions with the people who place ads in it. Joe’s lines were more improvised than other sections of the film because July liked the way Putterlik acted. She would instruct him to sell Jason on a hairdryer and just let it go from there, letting it evolve into a humorous scene. Putterlik himself was not that concerned with the movie or story, which might have helped him come across so naturally.
As the relationship’s deterioration reaches its climax, Jason has a memorable moment in which some supernatural elements creep in, making for a poignant scene that will stick in your mind well after you’ve viewed the film. July described the scene as coming out of a break-up she had during the production of Me and You and Everyone We Know that was particularly shocking. She knew that if she wanted to get that feeling into a movie, it would have to be something violent, like a murder. Though no blood is ultimately shed in the scene, the comparison feels quite apt as Jason struggles to hold on to his love.
The Future is full of beautiful photography and a willingness to play with the flow of time and space, with magical qualities sprinkled in for good measure. It possesses a tone one might expect from an “artistic” film, but differentiates itself thanks to the performances on display. It may be easy to label as “an indie film,” but July herself never made a point to put herself in the underground. She feels that making a full-length film is just an extension of the short-form work she has done in the past. She’s still getting money from the same people, and she still has access to the same actors she might work with before.
The soundtrack is also exceptional, composed by Jon Brion, who also created the music for Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About. July related stories of working with Brion, calling themselves “two basically insane people…making something under intense pressure.” Though she had less knowledge of writing music, July wanted to be involved enough that she would listen to a composition and raise her hand when something bothered her. After several times, Brion would be able to identify the note that was bothering her and change it to something she was happy with.
July admitted being pleasantly surprised by initial reactions to the film. She herself had low expectations, though admits that could be because she made the film. As she put it, “By the time you’ve made [the film], you’ve destroyed it.” But July is delighted that the conversation has changed this time around, with the people discussing the film being quite different from those that praised her last film.
After her first film, July didn’t jump right into making her second, and it seems that she doesn’t seem to have any intention of acting differently now that The Future is released. She would love to make another film soon, but she explained, “Then I wouldn’t be an artist.” Instead, she will be working in the other mediums she creates within outside of filmmaking. There is a performance she has all ready to release, as well as I Choose You, a book based on the interviews she did with people she found through the PennySaver. A novel is also in the works, something she aims to focus her time on.
So even though it may be a while before we see another film from the inventive filmmaker, it’s probably safe to say whatever Miranda July releases in the meantime will be engaging and thought-provoking.