After Making ‘The Future,’ Miranda July Considers Her Recent Past

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In The Future’s opening sequence, we’re introduced to Paw-Paw, the shelter cat who narrates Miranda July’s second feature, the follow-up to her award-winning 2005 film, Me and You and Everyone We Know. In less skilled hands, a philosophizing feline (voiced by July herself) might seem too precious, but the 37-year-old filmmaker elevates the twee aspects of her film into a grandiose allegory for embracing the future, no matter what it might bring.

July also stars in her new movie as Sophie, a children’s dance teacher, who, along with her hapless boyfriend, Jason (Hamish Linklater), decides to turn off her laptop and open herself up to the outside world. When a series of events causes Sophie to take an immoral detour, the two young lovers call into question what they think they know about themselves, each other, and tomorrow.

Time has flown by for July—she’s written a collection of short stories, 2007’s No One Belongs Here More than You; created the collaborative sculptures that made up Eleven Heavy Things, which debuted at the 2009 Venice Biennale; and gotten married to acclaimed director Mike Mills—so we asked the auteur of The Future to write a brief essay taking stock of her recent past. —Nick Haramis

I flew to Boston yesterday. While I was waiting for the bathroom, I chatted with the woman standing next to me. She mentioned that she was an airplane crash survivor. It was a British Airways flight that crashed into Heathrow. I asked her if she was scared to fly and she said she figured that the odds of it happening twice were very low. For a little while this calmed my usual fear of flying, but then I wondered if the reverse could also be true: maybe the odds are greater if it’s already happened once, because who really knows how math works.

Two weeks ago, I got poison oak all over my legs. Instead of itching them, I lay in bed and imagined shooting them with a gun, or sawing them off and throwing them out the window, or having them gored by an animal with horns. This helped a little bit because it was like itching them with my mind. Since the mind has a very light touch, you have to go to extremes to feel anything at all. image

I’ve become more conscious of money lately, after not thinking about it for the last 37 years. In poor times and in flush times, my goal has always been to put a minimum of thought toward finances. I thought I would be this way my whole life, like it was a part of my artistic temperament. But, actually, I was just young.

I wonder what other things come from youngness and are almost over. This makes me hopeful. It reminds me of being almost an adult, being 18 or 19 and knowing that a new way of life was coming.

Sometimes I still get excited about the fact that I can buy anything I want at the grocery store, and no one can stop me. In truth, though, I stop myself. I am like a very unfun, controlling parent, almost as bad as my own. My reward for finishing my movie was supposed to be a box of Wheat Chex. I still haven’t made good on that—every time I go to get the Wheat Chex I end up reading the list of ingredients and being horrified by the high fructose corn syrup. I end up buying lesbian Kashi, or a bag of barley.

The upside to being this strict with myself is that when I go wild, it’s really, really fun. And my mind is blown very easily; just knowing that pot exists is kind of thrilling.

Good things: Lydia Davis (the writer); I have more women friends today than I did a year ago; I finished the movie and it got sold; Mike; good health so far.

Things to worry about: that I don’t have what it takes to write a novel; cancer; that I’m going to come off badly in all the press I’m doing now; that life might get boring.

That last one just popped out. I didn’t know I was worried about life being boring, but now that I mention it, I see that’s a big part of what propels me, every day. The fear of being bored. Why would this be? Was my childhood traumatically boring? If I explored this more, the meaning of boredom would probably expand into something more kaleidoscopically profound.

Must everything be explored until it gets profound? Maybe some things are better left shallow. Actually, this is definitely true. The phrase “heavy-handed” wouldn’t exist if there weren’t some things that required a lightness of thought. Thank god for those things. Along with being more aware of money, I’m going to be more light-handed with my mind’s hands, now that I’m 37. Except when I’m mentally itching my legs, which requires the heaviest of hands, even a weapon.