Friday, April 23, 2010

Miranda July, the artist, actress, and auteur.

"Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is a film that with quiet confidence creates a fragile magic," said Robert Ebert of July's poignant love story. It's funny that Ebert would use the words "quiet" and "fragile" to describe July's film, which she wrote and directed, because they are both "feminine" keywords. Ebert probably would not use the same kinds of adjectives to describe any other love story written by a male. He also writes, "Performance art sometimes deals with the peculiarities of how we express ourselves, with how odd and wonderful it is to be alive. So does this film." This statement sums the film up perfectly, because it was a performance art piece, that was odd, but at the same time, beautiful. As we discussed in class today, film that is made as art is different from regular film. Art films do not just tell a story, they are made specifically to show something beautiful/interesting. They try to capture something others can't see so clearly. Me and You and Everyone We Know's message is about how wonderful it is to be alive, and it doesn't teach this message in the same way Hollywood or male-produced films do. July's film takes the smallest occurrences and most menial conversations and injects them with meaning. As written in Debra Zimmerman's "Women Make Movies", "That is incredibly feminist, to look at all the small things, all the parts that make up the whole." That is exactly what July does throughout her movie.

For example, in a seemingly simple encounter in the shoe department of a store, July implants her outlook on life. The main character, played by July herself, Christine, goes with one of her clients, Michael, (she works as a chauffeur for the elderly—"Eldercab") to buy new orthopedic shoes, and leaves with new shoes of her own, a lesson about life, and a love interest. Another chief character, the love interest, Richard, is a shoe salesman. Richard asks if Christine wants to try on a plain pair of pink flats. She declines, and he asks if her own shoes are comfortable. Christine replies, "I guess so. I mean, they kind of rub my ankles, but all shoes do that. I have low ankles."

Richard: You think you deserve that pain, but you don't.
Christine: I don't think I deserve it.
Richard: Well, not consciously maybe.
Christine: My ankles are just low.
Richard: People think foot pain is a fact of life...but life is actually better than that.
Michael (who is excited about his own new shoes): I'll say. You should get some. Your whole life could be better. Starting right now.

These odd, but endearing moments seem to be July's "self-expressive signature", an idea Maggie Humm introduces in "Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film". Another idea Humm writes about is a "radical notion of women's double voice". She asks, "how do women authors manage 'the difficult task of achieving true female literary authority by simultaneously conforming to and subverting patriarchal literary standards'? [Sandra] Gilbert and [Susan] Gubar's answer is to trace and affirm the more extensive features of female authorship: 'oddity' and 'eccentricity' of style, well as linking aspects of female sexuality with textuality." July masterfully conforms to and subverts patriarchal literary standards and links aspects of female sexuality with textuality in several scenes with her signature odd and eccentric style.

First, there is the fellatio scene. In the movie, there are two teenagers, Heather and Rebecca, who entice Richard's co-worker, Andrew, in front of his house for the fun of it. Andrew asks whether they are girlfriends, and comments on how they are beautiful and seem nice.

Rebecca: What would you do...if you believed we were 18, which we are?
Andrew: Well, I can't even tell ya. I can't tell you till you're 18.
-I can't talk dirty to you...because then I'd be a pervert...and probably even a pedophile too, so—
Rebecca: No one has ever talked dirty to us.
Andrew: Really? Sounds very appealing.
-I'm gonna go inside now.
Rebecca: Okay. We'll wave to you.
Heather: Make sure to look.
Andrew: I will.
(They wave, and he looks.)
Heather: Oh, he's probably jerking off.
Rebecca: Oh, my God!
Heather: He is. You can so tell he is.
Rebecca: How?
Heather: I can feel it. See that crack? That's where his hard-on is.
-Let's kiss.
Rebecca: Okay.

Afterwards, Andrew starts leaving explicit signs for them at his window. One read, "Then the tall one would suck my stone-hard dick." Heather is appalled that he wanted Rebecca, "the tall one" to perform fellatio and not her.

Heather: He's crazy.
-You'd leave teeth marks all over it.
-You'd choke on it.
Rebecca: He could see that I have a sensuous mouth.
Heather: This is crazy. Someone should call in the authorities.
Rebecca: Obviously, I would do it better.
Heather: We need an impartial authority.

At that point, Peter, Richard's son, walks past the two, and they stop him and offer to perform fellatio so that he could judge who is better. Although the scene is sexual in nature, it isn't displayed explicitly. The girls tell Peter he isn't allowed to touch their heads or to watch, so during the scene, a pillow is placed on his head. The pillow in the scene serves as a "blindfold" so he would not know who is performing (so they can be fairly judged), but at the same time, as part of a camera shot, it allows the scene to be as desexualized as possible. It erases the male gaze, as Laura Mulvey discusses in "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema". Humm also writes that "in the bedroom interiors the camera focus allows women to be powerful controllers of their spaces. ...The women are not framed voyeuristically for the viewer..."

Going back to the idea about women's double voice, this scene is not about sex for the sake of it being about sex, as it might be in another movie produced in Hollywood or by a man. There is a point to it beyond its sexual nature. It is about the girls' friendship. After they both perform fellatio on Peter, they ask for the verdict. "So, what was the difference?" Peter concludes, "You were exactly the same. I couldn't tell the difference." Rebecca and Heather then look at each other and share a smile while linking fingers. They are pleased that they are equal. Humm comments that women's friendships is feminist film's most "consistent and important feature." Later, in the last scene featuring Heather and Rebecca, July finalizes the strength of the duo's friendship and togetherness. Heather says, "If he puts up another sign, I think we should go up there. I mean, what else can happen? Just more signs? Signs forever? I always thought I'd lose it with someone who was my boyfriend or something. But this is better...'cause it won't matter if we mess up. And we'll be together." This line also gives meaning to their "relationship" with Andrew. It desexualizes his signs, and gives them
textuality. All these sexual encounters are really terms for displaying two girls' bond.

In this aspect, July is very much interested in the feminist idea of connections between humans (love), and how it is displayed in the details of life. In an interview with Tony Dushane for Bookslut, July says, "And art’s so much about that. It’s hard not to write a story or make a movie about people connecting. ... I have...a resolute faith in things that you can’t see are present and important."

Works Cited

Ebert, Robert. "Me and You and Everyone We Know." Rev. of Me and You and Everyone We Know dir. by Miranda July. Sun Times 24 Jun 2005 <>.

Dushane, Tony. "An Interview with Miranda July." Bookslut July 2008 <>.

More awesome Miranda July links!

Learning To Love You More:

My favorite scene from
Me and You and Everyone We Know:

No One Belongs Here More Than You (Stories by Miranda July):

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