In her debut feature film, You Me and Everyone We Know (2005) July charmed her way into the hearts of unsuspecting viewers with considerable acclaim. She is however, often a divisive figure, accused of being too kooky, pretentious and overly self-conscious and has earned a pretty vocal set of haters too. The plot of her movies may be slightly thin in places, playing second fiddle to the visual affect and emotion of the piece. But July counters her flaws with some style and attention to detail seldom seen in contemporary independent cinema.
The film follows a couple in their mid thirties, grasping at ways to render their existence less boring. Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (played by July herself) realise they have lost their way in life; a life which involved spending most of their time scowling at work colleagues and racking up sizeable Youtube hits for their online butt shaking. They decide it would be good to adopt a rescued cat in an attempt to take their relationship to the next level.
The impending arrival of “Paw-Paw” prompts the pair to spend their final four weeks of independence fulfilling their oddball dreams and ambitions, before they are condemned to the humdrum of responsibility. This may seem a fairly predictable set of parameters for your average indie flick, but throw in the fact that Paw-Paw talks along with a series of other surreal occurrences that blend fantasy with reality and the films twisted detail begins to creep in.
Capturing the essence of the character of Sophie is clearly a breeze for July, whose performance is characteristically mesmerising (or annoying depending on your fence/standing situation), but Hamish Linklater manages to make a decent case for himself as the charming, curly haired indie-film leading male. For me the show was stolen somewhat by Jason’s occasionally risqué elderly companion Joe when he appears as a ray of light, providing some questionable life advice for the lost soul when he decides to respond to an advert in a newspaper for a second hand hairdryer.
As you are taken along with the couple’s various antics, you are accompanied by a rich but understated original musical score, which gels wonderfully with the zany colours, outfits, events and even emotions. An accomplished multi instrumentalist of the visual art world, July works in a multitude of artistic practices ranging from sculpture and dance to web based chain letter art and it is rather nice to imagine that she recorded the entire soundtrack for The Future too. Unfortunately this illusion is shattered when the credits role and we see the name of Jon Brion (who has worked with July in the past).
July jumbles up the emotional turmoil of people coming to terms with their own morality and the subsequent breakdown of their relationship with flourishes of abstract surrealism to great effect. Some scenes may be a bit farfetched for certain audiences. The talking moon, the hippos and the child buried up to her neck seemingly for no reason can be baffling, but there is a great reward to be had for anyone prepared to take MJ up on her challenge. One standout scene features Sophie performing a trademark, but perhaps her finest yet, expressive dance. From inside an oversized stretchy yellow t-shirt, she had previously kept as a comforter, while her suburban squeeze, Marshall performs a classic U-turn in the corridor upon noticing the abstract lump in his bedroom.
The anticipation that has built for a filmmaker that left such an indelible mark on audiences six years ago, means that The Future has a large mountain to conquer. However, its peak doesn’t fall too short.
Gino works behind the bar at Phoenix Square. A practicing artist and curatorial dabbler, he also jointly runs arts collective Vanilla Galleries and is a Director at Two Queens artist studios.