ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW written and directed by Miranda July, with July, John Hawkes, Miles Thompson, Brandon Ratcliff, Carlie Westerman and Tracy Wright. 90 minutes. An Odeon release. Opens Friday (July 22). For venues and times, see Movies, page 80. Rating: NNNN
Cannes - Miranda July sits with her legs tightly crossed on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. The sun is hot enough to bake everything in sight, including newly formed indie film stars like herself. But July sits pale and poised in a yellow dress with frills and white buttons marching up to her neck. She wears yellow moccasins to match.
She looks like the brightest girl in class, the girl who hates school and can't wait to grow up and be an artist. July gives off girl vibes in the same way that David Byrne will always look like a boy in shorts. She remains tapped into the unfiltered genius of childhood. She understands play. Today her scorching blue eyes play against her yellow and white wardrobe like an art class colour wheel. But she hates school.
"When I was 16 I wrote a play," she says. "I didn't want to put it on at my school, so I put it on at this punk club. For a long time my performance work was in that world, and music labels put out my performance CDs. It was a funny fit, but it was great for the ethic of it."
Before making the film that took her to Sundance and Cannes, July made her name as a media artist, performer and author. She might have become a filmmaker earlier, she says, except that "I'm just not the kind of person who would apply to film school. It's just a turnoff to me."
It turns out it was the right move. Me And You And Everyone We Know is the most original film debut of the year, and much of that's due to July's training in performance. She's spent years creating and inhabiting characters, but she still works from what she calls the "mystery" of other people. For that reason, she says, "I refused to have any stars in it.
"It's a movie that suggests that everyone is interesting, so it seemed hypocritical to then have a star."
Instead, she sets 11 characters off on collision courses with each other and gives each one the breath of individuality. Some dark, odd things happen in the film, but July's perspective is at heart comic.
"Todd Solondz comes up all the time," she admits. "I don't love every movie, and some of them I don't like at all. But I do love the fact that he's making a space for himself that really has nothing to do with the industry. It makes more space for me."
But where Solondz leans to the misanthropic, July's view of human idiosyncrasy is as sunny as her yellow shoes. And while she comes from a performance art background, she decided for the film that "the most radical thing I could do was to have these feelings come across. That's more daring than any seemingly experimental thing I could do."
July's great skills lie in thinking independently, and in rethinking ways of connecting to people. Years ago, she set up a website.
"To any girl who sent me her movie I sent back a tape with her movie and nine other movies on it made by nine other women. It was kind of a correspondence course, a community."
As Solondz made room for her, she hopes her work will make room for the ways some women and girls tell stories.
"I'm a kind of doubtful, second-guessing person," she admits. "You don't really hear about that in directors. But it is okay."
ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (Miranda July) Rating: NNNN
Miranda July's Me And You And Everyone We Know is the year's most original debut. July is a former performance artist who writes, directs and stars in this hilarious and surprisingly moving portrait of 11 interconnected characters.
She plays an artist starting a spiky romance with a shoe salesman, while his children enter into a dirty, dirty exchange with an online freak. Then there are the two teenage girls flirting with sex, and Tracy Wright, brilliantly understated as an art dealer.
With a film this smart and unpredictable you credit the writing, but July is an equally good director. The performances are nearly flawless. This is a rare film that gives equal range and idiosyncrasy to six-year-olds and senior citizens.