The Visionary. Ever so often a person comes along with a voice that has the ability to create change; the potential to alter opinions, to question the invisible guideline for life and to answer with a clear conception full of understanding and relevance. Miranda July is one of those people.
From the liberal San Francisco suburb of Berkeley, California, a centrality of bohemian lifestyle in the mid-seventies, Miranda July has steadily followed the progressive mentality of her roots. As a young adult, July began writing plays and staging them at local music clubs, and after she had moved to Portland, Oregon, joined a punk scene, "given lesbianism a whirl and cut off all her hair," she started experimenting with making short films. The "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" to the James Bond film Thunderball, lodged in a shut drawer of her first apartment kitchenette, inspired July to create an original motion picture of her own. Atlanta was the title of her first film, a ten-minute story of a preteen Olympic swimmer and her overbearing mother preparing for the 1996 Olympic games, in which July acts in both roles. The use of video imagery quickly penetrated her performance work as she graduated from small clubs to more theatrical performance venues throughout the country, including New York's performance art hub The Kitchen.
It wasn't until 2005 that she would release her first feature film, the offbeat Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won the Caméra d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and immediately gifted her the notoriety of a true filmmaker in international regard. Despite the success of the film and its frenzy of media and offers to fund another, July felt no interest in embarking on a Hollywood journey, and so set out to publish a collection of short stories that she had built upon over several years. Sixteen stories of sex, self and romance form the much praised No One Belongs Here More Than You. In her sententious writing style, July's voice is one of honesty and genuineness—her charming and captivating personality is reflected in every word, page by page.
In the summer of 2007, July began working on her second feature-length film. Beginning with a break-up and initially developed as a performance, Things We Don't Understand and Are Definitely Not Going to Talk About evolved into the 2011 film The Future, a darker story than that of Me and You, focusing on feelings of commitment and time and embedded with quirks involving a metaphoric t-shirt and anthropomorphizing the moon and a cat named Paw-Paw. A thirty-something couple, Sophie and Jason, fear their impending loss of freedom as they plan to adopt the very old, sick stray cat in a month's time, realizing that in this last month they must do something meaningful with their lives. Just as she was finishing up the screenplay, July hit a brick wall.
Armed with a beginning and an end to her story, but lacking an essential middle for Jason, who sells tress door-to-door for an environmental volunteer group, she found that everyday distractions had gotten the better of her, so much so that she began working on an entirely new project, a book, but only by accident; perhaps in a subconscious effort to delay the completion of her troubling screenplay. Reading the PennySaver, tucked into piles of coupons amongst Tuesday's junk mail became an afternoon ritual, and her avid curiosity to learn more about the anonymous seller of the used hairdryer and the vintage leather jacket led her to call the listed numbers and ask for an interview, hoping to answer the questions that besotted her. These interviews unexpectedly grew into It Chooses You, and July's own experience building the book gave her the story that her main character so desperately needed. Jason would, in a sense, become the fictional Miranda; he would make the PennySaver expedition on a whim as she did, striving to find some deep, cosmic revelation in the process. The title of the book even derives from the film's script. Jason: "I'm gonna let it choose me. I just have to be alert and listen."
One often finds themselves having somewhat of an epiphany when discovering the work of Miranda July; her candid approach to representing both the deep and not-so-deep emotions of people provides an explanation to some of our most profound thoughts, as well as the mundane wonderings of everyday life: What connection do you have to the strangers you meet in passing? Do you have the same daily concerns, worries, priorities? These are the settings of July's esoteric chronicles. Her work is devoted to exposing life's truths worth talking about; to ask the questions formerly unanswered and never asked. She urges to examine the complexities of the human condition and achieves it with grace, wit, and humility, venturing away from the quotidian—recognizing it but not analyzing it—and instead translates it into something relative and all at once easy to understand. Oftentimes brilliantly peculiar, blunt, and altogether mystifying, and maintaining success in nearly every medium imaginable, Miranda July is an artist in every aspect of the word.
Extract from the first anniversary issue of BITE Magazine. Issue 04: Rinse & Repeat is now available for purchase here.