The Artist and Filmmaker Presents An Exclusive Vignette Inspired By Her Magical New Film
Miranda July dreams up an idiosyncratic solution to the interruptions of modern life in "A Handy Tip for the Easily Distracted." An offcut from July's latest film, The Future, the scene has been reconstituted by the actress, writer and filmmaker for NOWNESS, complete with a score by David Byrne collaborator Steven Reker. July drew on her performance art piece, “Things We Don't Understand and Are Definitely Not Going to Talk About” for her sophomore feature; it follows 2005's Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won the Caméra d'Or prize at Cannes. The film's plot centers on LA couple Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), whose decision to adopt the sickly stray cat Paw Paw sees them grapple with the impending responsibility of the pet's care. This being a July vehicle, things take a characteristically kooky turn, with Paw Paw stepping in as narrator, and the couple embarking on a quest to seize the day: Sophie strives to reach her artistic potential by creating a definitive dance number, and Jason hands his future over to fate, following "signs" from the universe. We spoke to the prolific July, who has also exhibited as a performance artist at the Guggenheim and the Whitney Biennale and written for publications including The Paris Review and The New Yorker.
Why didn't the scene above make the final cut of The Future?
This scene was meant to make it clear that Sophie was struggling against distraction, after losing time on YouTube—we all know how alluring these distractions are, and here we are seeing her attempting to take charge. I had her rig up a grape juice booby trap. In the next scene, which is actually in the movie, you see her run past the table and her white dress is covered in grape juice, which seemed like a funny visual way of showing that she had sacrificed the dress for the internet. Except that nobody got the whole grape juice trap. I don't think a single person understood why she was doing any of it. It just seemed like a bizarre performance in the middle of the movie. So I cut it. It's nice to show it here, and hopefully with the cards it isn't too mystifying.
What compelled you to tell a story so focused on temporality?
It didn't start out being about time, but the longer it took to make, the older I got and the more pressure I felt. It was made more acute by me being in my mid-thirties—a very particular time in any woman's life.
Can you sum up what the movie is about for you?
My work is never only about the story—it is always about what is inside the people who are in the story. But, in the most basic sense, it's about time: getting through it, minute by minute, stopping it, and the end of it, death.
You’ve said that The Future is your version of a horror movie. Can you explain why?
The character I play in the movie fails to make the dance she sets out to make, and then flees her life. She moves to a world where she will never have to try and fail again. No one cares if she's creative there. This is a sort of horror movie for a person like me, who has created her sense of self through making things. But it's also a fantasy: a fear-fantasy.