“Kajillionaire” has taken on a new identity: it is Miranda July’s pandemic film. (At least, she hopes – perhaps the first of many pandemic films.) After overcoming the initial disappointment on the film’s trajectory – the film was first slated to hit theaters in June – she was able to connect with the new film. of the film context and appreciate what viewers were able to choose from the plot.
“So many people have described it in terms of a pandemic: their loneliness, how intense the touch is when you have not been touched, surviving ‘great.’ I’ve just come to understand it, ”says July, who wrote and directed the film. “Not to be completely magical to think of it, but the reality is that this movie is out now.”
The misplaced comedy film, which premiered at Sundance in January, follows a family of scammers in Los Angeles who survive pulling out low-level scams and cons with creative agility. It’s also a film about connection and affection, or in the case of the central character – emotionally struggling 26-year-old Old Dolio, played by Evan Rachel Wood – the lack of it. July has completed the family casting with Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger.
July alternates creative means: after writing a novel, he wants the release (and collaboration) to make a film. “I wish this was a more cutting-edge answer, but the truth is that from the moment I finish a book, I’m hungry and waiting for the idea of a movie,” he says. And that’s how the characters in “Kajillionaire” were destined for the screen. July woke up one morning with the image of a messy family of three formed in his head: he saw the two women, a mother and daughter, with long, long hair and the tousled dominance of a husband and father. And then July saw the characters in one scene: the three of them at a baggage conveyor belt at the airport, in the middle of a small baggage scam.
“The idea of family members pretending not to know each other in public was really painful and hit something in me,” says July. “I knew the story of how you got to that point. And what has happened since that time has been a movie. “
Through decades of creative research spanning a brief musical stint in the riot grrrl scene, mixed-media performance projects, experimental and independent filmmaking, and creative writing, July has cultivated friendships with people who take a subversive approach similar to artistic creation. Two of those friends brought her to the film’s protagonists: Carrie Brownstein introduced July to Wood via text, and Lena Dunham suggested Gina Rodriguez to play the familiar intruder and influencer character.
July first met Wood at dinner and looked for a sign that Old Dolio was dormant inside the actress. “By the end of that dinner, I was a little stunned,” says July, who also discovered one of Wood’s secrets: the actress has a deep, lower voice – her original voice, perfect for Old Dolio. The pair created Old Dolio’s nuanced physicality in the course of intense exploratory exercises, which involved Wood crawling through July’s house, “like a creature.” In Wood’s words, she was in heaven. “At the time as a director, you’re like, is this too weird?” July says about the trial. “But an actor wants to go out on a limb. This is the point. “
Cheap rent in LA can be hard to come by, and July needed to find a place for the family to live on a poor budget. His answer to this conundrum was to host them at industrial Bubbles Inc., where their space is regularly flooded with voluptuous pink Sisyphus foam. The foam was also his answer to what he thought the film needed: more beauty. At the end of the film, the foam is also a metaphor for coming of age and transformation.
July set the precarious age of 26 for Old Dolio, too old to still live at home with your parents, but not old enough to be truly problematic. Like her characters, July engaged in intense scamming in her 20s, documented in her mid-career monographic book “Miranda July,” published earlier this year. The book traces the artist’s first fragmentary creative activities through current projects, intertwining images and archive documents with the cartoons of various friends and collaborators of July. At twenty, July was running Big Miss Moviola / Joanie 4 Jackie, a “clandestine distribution network” (similar to a VHS chain letter) for female directors. Roseanne Barr’s talk show sent out a FedEx number in July so she could send out some tapes, and then July continued to use it.
“You’re 26 and have a FedEx number – it’s like gold,” he says. “It’s kind of like, this is a little grant from Roseanne Barr to female directors, you know?”
In the opening interview of his monograph, July recognizes money as a conduit for power, for anxiety, for emotion. “The moment I left the house, I approached the world with the mentality of a thief,” she says in the book. Despite his success and celebrity, July is not, in fact, a kajllionaire, or even a millionaire. In a recent profile in New York magazine, July personal bank account details are revealed – it only has $ 2,000. (Well, at least until the next installment of his advance on the book arrives.)
When July posted a public thank you praising the author on Instagram, Twittersphere’s niche media subsection was in turmoil. Should it be considered a win for the subject of a celebrity profile to respond so exuberantly to what has been written about them? There’s a sense that the conversation was fueled in part because of who the topic was: July is a divisive figure, and it may have been an elusive way to hate twee-haters. But more interesting to consider is that the tension around the false connection and power imbalance has been central to July’s work since his early days of performance art – elements also typically at play between a reporter and the subject. While hours and decades of closeness create opportunities to go in depth, July was just as likely to create a lasting and deep connection from fleeting interactions – an Uber ride, with driver Oumarou Idrissa, led to eventual artistic collaboration. Most cyclists would have given a five-star rating and moved on. Furthermore, he explored the dynamics of making typically private communication public; in his 2013 project “We Think Alone”, he extracted uncensored personal emails from the sent folders of famous friends and sent them to a listserve.
“It made me laugh to think that people thought I liked it, or that there was this love party between us or something,” she says of the profile. “It was totally uncomfortable for me. It’s up to date, the whole process, “adds July of being profiled.” I was very, very nervous. And then when I read it, I thought, oh f – k. For example, my bank account balance , my relationship with my parents – for now the jury is still out on that relationship after that article. “
What he appreciated is that we get to the heart of the matter: the disorder and imperfection of relationships with parents and relationships with their own identity as mother, wife, artist. “If you were being honest or talking to a therapist or friend, these issues are really central, they are totally uncomfortable and in the air,” he says. Similarly, July found the process of sifting through his past work for his monograph, akin to reading an old diary, inconvenient. But in doing so, she also found new understanding and empathy for her younger self.
“Kajillionaire” is hitting theaters, though not everywhere. (It’s a pandemic movie, after all.) “Only you know what watching a movie on the big screen means to you; it is personal. It goes without saying that me, Evan and the entire cast and crew would be extremely honored by your presence, but it won’t be safe for everyone or everywhere, ”July wrote on Instagram in early September.
July won’t watch his film in theaters – he never sees his films again after the premiere – and he couldn’t if he wanted to; Los Angeles cinemas have yet to reopen. But she desperately wants to see a movie, any movie, in a theater. Like everyone else, there is no escape.
“It’s really like not having to exist for a couple of hours, but in the highest sense – not zoning on Instagram, but putting yourself in someone else’s hands. [sense], “she says.” And do it between people in a space that’s just for that, that has no other distractions – I mean, it’s built to be a little bit sacred. “