Fear and longing

Miranda July grapples with the weirdness of the familiar in The Future

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Ex-riot grrl Miranda July: "Of course, now I'm in a world, the film world, that's so male-dominated."
PHOTO COURTESY AARON BECKUM

arts@sfbg.com

Dreams and drawings, cats and fantasies, ambition and aimlessness, and the mild-mannered yet mortifying games people play, all wind their way into Miranda July's The Future. The future's a scary place, as many of us fully realize, even if you hide from it well into your 30s, losing yourself in the everyday. But you can't duck July's collection of moments, objects, and small gestures transformed into something strangely slanted and enchanted, both weird and terrifying, when viewed through July's looking glass.

With The Future, which evolved out of a performance titled Things We Don't Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About, July explains, "I think there was a lot of stuff that I didn't want to talk about — that I found really embarrassing. Why talk about [making art]? Isn't it a lot cooler just to make a movie that doesn't have that in it? Since obviously the great fear of someone in my position would be that you wouldn't be able to make something — and what would happen then? But it's also really interesting to me that you devote your life to doing this and it doesn't stop being interesting, like, how ideas come and when they don't."

At the moment July (2005's Me and You and Everyone We Know) seems perfectly imperfectly in step with the world she's in: an opulently beige meeting room at the Four Seasons. I can't stop studying her shocking pink lips and matching glittery collar, happily clashing with her camel sweater, as she averts those star-child, sky-blue peepers to stare intently at the pen in her hands. Despite seeming as dazzled by life as a child, she chooses her words scrupulously, as if her existence depended on it, and punctuates the end of almost every sentence with a gently-hurled exclamation point of a "yeah." The careful consideration coloring her words and appearance obviously finds its way, stumbling and fumbling gracefully, into her films, performances, and short stories, as well as the assignments she assembled with Harrell Fletcher for the online art project Learning to Love You More.

Care and commitment — to oneself and others — are two vivid threads running through The Future. Cute couple Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) — unsettling look-alikes with their curly crops — appear at first to be sailing contently, aimlessly toward an undemanding unknown: Jason works from home as a customer-service operator, and Sophie attempts to herd kiddies as a children's dance instructor. But enormous, frightening demands beckon — namely the oncoming adoption of a special-needs feline named Paw-Paw (voiced by July as if it's a traumatized, innocent child). Lickety-splitsville, they must be all they can be before Paw-Paw's arrival, so the pair quit their jobs as Sophie tries to set up a Julie and Julia-style online stunt designed to make her a YouTube dance hit and Jason drifts into environmental activist work that sends him into the orbits of anyone who answers the door. In the meantime, Sophie gets pulled into the suburban vortex of a random man (David Warshofsky) that Jason meets at Paw-Paw's shelter. The weirdness of the familiar, and the kindness of strangers, become ways into fantasy and escape when the couple bumps up against the limits of their imagination.

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