According to Miranda July, The Future Is a Bummer

I love Miranda July, and I am not so sure she should be telling fortunes.

Jul 15, 2011 at 2:02pm | Leave a comment

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I’ve been receiving Miranda July’s bi-weekly fortunes for a couple months now. Anyone can sign up for them by visiting the custom site for her forthcoming movie, "The Future." It’s a spiffy oracle wheel that is supposed to not only promote her movie, but also predicate advice for the user's essential dilemma. And as an added bonus, she is emailing divination to anyone who wants it twice a week. Miranda July as my fortune teller? Hell yes!

The first fortune I received in the mail said this:

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It was disconcerting not because it was true (I am a blabbermouth and even when I do bad things I tell everyone about it), but because it was such a bummer thing to read 1. from Miranda July, queen of life experimentation bordering on motivational avant-garde faerie magic and 2. as something that is supposed to be guidance from a higher source.

I know the lady who built Miranda July’s site, and when I emailed her all angry she assured me that it’s automated, and not to take it personally.

The following weeks brought the following fortunes:

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Not exactly uplifting stuff. And disappointing, because, while Miranda July’s narratives can be twisted, they’re not usually dark, broken or outright cruel.

I am a big fan of hers because she rigorously explores how we weird ourselves out with the ordinary by gorging on the everyday. Her point of view is stripped entirely of spectacle, transforming the mundane to kitsch. She gives us the human condition under a microscope, where the scientist is less interested in data than the endurance ritual of observation. And no matter what, it's always filled with wonder and reverence for life. These fortunes sound like she's kind of tired, or resigned.

If this was the promo associated with the film, I was curious about the message of "The Future." Did Miranda July actually make something negative?

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I found out a couple days ago at an advance screening at MoMA (the movie opens July 29 at IFC Center in New York and other similar kinds of places in select cities). Miranda July was in attendance, and she thanked the audience in advance for our participation. “You make the movie real by believing it’s real,” she said.

I don’t want to give away the narrative, because the trailer says enough. Basically, it’s about a couple that becomes so fixated on what might happen in the future that they forget to live in the present, and make some really careless moves.

"The Future" is very Miranda July: indulgent of her thought process, which is part of what makes her so special, as she seems to lack a lot of the internal boundaries with herself that most people have in place in order to stay functional. While watching, I was pretty sure I was having an emotional reaction, even if I couldn’t identify what it was, although I knew at some point recognition would crash down on me and split me open. (And it did -- I sobbed.) Like everything else she does, this movie goes there, and that is reason enough to love it.

Then again, "The Future" is not very Miranda July: wondering if following signs even works as a thing to do in life. Does whimsy and exploration into the unknown always lead us to the “right” place? Or is this escapism?

This is Miranda July meditating on skepticism and—as she explained in the Q+A following the screening --- a broken heart from a sudden breakup while editing her first film, "Me and You and Everyone We Know." Hence the bummer fortunes. And the very sad movie.

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I am someone who has to follow signs -- like, there is no other choice. If all kinds of intangible things or activities start pointing in one direction, that is where I go, whether or not it makes rational sense. Miranda July, to me, has been one of the biggest proponents of this choose-your-own-adventure life method, and it sort of scared me to see her question this, or possibly even take it back.

Still, she’d have to do a lot more to make me not a fan (including the fact that my dad adores her, which makes me adore her even more). I just hope she had a better time while editing her film this time around.