Moving Image Meditations

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005). Directed by MIranda July. Pictured: Miranda July

Two entries earlier, Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You had been explored.  Her first feature film Me and You and Everyone We Know begged viewing and analysis.  How would her interior worlds combine with her performance artist sensibilities to cinema?

Miranda July not only directs but has a prominent role in the film.  Referencing odd jobs her characters had in her short stories and probably pulled from her vagabond existence as a budding artist, Christine cabs eldery folks to wherever they need to be.  Her main client is an aging Hispanic man Michael (Hector Elias) creating a flip from racial power dynamic made famous by Driving Miss Daisy (1987) by playwright Alfred Uhry.

While real world humans typically run from emotional outpourings, July situates each character as loving and accepting of all perversity, hardships, and gestures of kindness.  Embracing oddities, July awkwardly displays yearning for department shoe salesman Richard (John Hawkes) whose own sense of despair cannot be hidden.  Audiences watch Richard and his wife finalize a separation in their former house.  In response, Richard strolls outside tapping the window where his two sons inside had been im-ing.  Getting their attention, he douses lighter fluid over his right hand then ignites his hand.  Flames consume his flesh.  He gazes in amazement moving the hand through the air like Tai Chi practitioners.  Scenes later his action has a more logical context as he mistakenly remembered that lighter fluid burned cleanly when he should have used alcohol for his symbolic hand pyre.  Christine hounds Richard in desperation that usually is censored.  We may all have thoughts of intense fascination and longing, but rarely would verbally pronounce these thoughts to the admired object (human).

To July’s credit, she renders museum culture with sensitivity and avoids a nagging cliché that seemed apparent upon the first interaction with Curator of Contemporary Art Nancy Herrington.  Dressed in black, looking severe and withdrawn, Herrington pulls the classic disconnect.  Brazenly, Christine visits the museum and presents her media art piece on VHS to Herrington.  Herrington will not take the VHS in person; Christine must mail this to the very same address they are standing.  This is not an unusual practice in the artworld.  Peeling away the onion layers, Herrington reveals vulnerability in two momentous scenes for her character.  She patiently views Christine’s submission and allows herself to play Christine’s game of acknowledgment.  A slightly provocative interaction occurs when Herrington sits leisurely at a park bench solidifying her as the unknown corresponder during the salacious im chat sessions.  She gets a surprise of her own.  Richard’s youngest son of about 5 years climbs on the bench staring at her.  She sees him.  He sees her.  They share this judgment free space – a quick kiss of thanks.  Herrington scurries off smiling.  Her expectations and fears give way to simplicity of understanding.  She can return to her job and not shelter her feelings of alienation.

Strengths in this film are found in the meditative pauses.  Yes, this narrative is quirky and somewhat bizarre, but beneath the sexual blasé lies earnest people searching for emotional havens.

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