Film

Revisiting: Miranda July’s ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’

The author takes a critical look, at what is arguably one of the best, and quirky films of the last decade.


Me And You and Everyone we Know

Director: Miranda July
Cast: John Hawkes, Miranda July
Rated: R
Studio: IFC Films/Film Four
Year: 2005

For years, the writer/artist/filmmaker, Miranda July has been creating work that has challenged audiences to think beyond the conventional norms of expression. Both sweeping and observational, her work often tends to highlight the fragile relationship between human pain and pleasure, with a particular emphasis on how the minutia of everyday life can help foster an understanding of collective experience.

In particular here, I am eager to discuss how July’s feature length film debut, the oddly beguiling, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), is able to utilize a series of narrative and aesthetic devices, to subvert traditional capitalist, and patriarchal ideologies. The first of these devices of which I will discuss, relates to the female protagonist, Christine, and her whimsical approach to life.

Take for instance her first rendezvous with the object of her desire, Richard (a troubled shoe salesman). After they meet in a department store, Christine starts following Richard as he walks to his car. During this time, she asks him to imagine that the road before them is an emblem of their life together. As they continue along this street, they begin to envision their future together—they share unadorned hopes, dreams and desires. Throughout this, the pair’s conversation takes on a surreal emotional language that is incredibly childlike. Such is the case that at times; it feels like one is watching two idealistic children sharing an intimate moment. This innocent and unbridled approach to romance in the narrative defies the usual dating tropes – suggesting that patriarchy can exist without the rational expectations that contemporary logisticians are so keen to maintain.

But July’s desire to dissent from the confines of conventional expectation is perhaps better evidenced through her representation of the art world. In Me and You and Everyone We Know, the institutional world of art seems preoccupied with an inexplicable capitalist ideology that lacks any grounding in the artist’s practical processes. For instance, the curator in the film, Nancy Herrington – approaches art with an odd timidity, almost as if she is afraid that she might cross creative boundaries that she herself is unaware even exist. As such, she comes out with absurdist quips like “E-mail wouldn’t exist without AIDS”, and flutters about her gallery space, twiddling her thumbs, whilst listening to her air headed assistant harp on about convoluted artistic trends. Indeed, Nancy is so rife with fear about being exposed as a fraud that when Christine, the struggling video artist tries to hand deliver her work to her, Nancy staunchly refuses to accept it, asking her to send it by post, to the very same location, where Christine has already made the trouble of arriving to herself. It’s almost as if by accepting the tape personally, Nancy felt that she was going to expose her humanity. For Nancy, this is an impossible prospect because in her mind, high-flying collectors and curators are supposed to be impervious, if not completely sealed off from public access.

Ironically, when July exposes the deceptive mask of creative snobbery, she also achieves the dual feat of making ‘art’, and indeed ‘art practice’ accessible. To the audience, July’s character, Christine may be an Artist, but she is first and foremost, a single woman, with idealistic goals – searching for love and hope, in perhaps all of the wrong places. Contrary to the elitist perception that artists are all wealthy sons of noblemen, who attend specialist arts colleges, July paints a picture of the artist who exists within the confines of the mundane and everyday. Our protagonist, Christine weaves her way around town, working on art subjects, before changing the plates on her car, which also doubles up as a transportation vehicle for elderly people. As such, the façade is unmasked. As well, Christine’s choice to fall in love with a shoe salesman is also an oppositional force to capitalist ideology.

Shouldn’t an up and coming artist be seeking out businessmen, curators, or academics, i.e. men who can engage mentally on her level? Well, no. July is not content with these limiting labels, which suggest that interests such as fine art, are only worth the erudite brow of the aristocracy. Instead, she tells the story of a couple that are drawn together by an unfettered, and largely inexplicable connection – one that has more to do with life experience, as opposed to the professional credentials that have come to weigh so heavily on contemporary society.

Just as intriguing, is the manner in which July unravels the creative process. Through Christine’s daily life, we grow to understand the nuances that drive her creative process. Moments of inspiration are interspersed with instances of pragmatic heartbreak (re: the initial gallery rejection) – while other illuminating events help the viewer comprehend the depth of Christine’s character. In one of the initial scenes for example, we watch Christine as she pines over the life of a helpless goldfish that is about to reach its inevitable demise. It is in these scenes that the audience begins to understand the issues and subjects that fuel Christine’s work. Above all, she is interested in ‘life’, and the plethora of conflicting feelings that accompany the experience of ‘living’. We follow Christine as she tries to ‘feel’ something with another person, and the journey that sees her documenting fragile lives, and love affairs. As such, July’s preoccupation with emotionalism, and human connections supersedes her desire for fame, or commercial success, and so, her film in and off itself subverts the more material trappings intrinsic of capitalist ideology.

The next thread of subversion is a more delicate narrative detail that rarely simmers to the surface. Particularly, it is how Richard’s two children are dealt with throughout the duration of the film. Richard (the shoe salesman) is White and his wife (who he is currently in the midst of a divorce with), is Black. Their children are biracial, and live in an almost completely Caucasian suburban community. Yet, despite this, July never makes an issue out of the protagonist’s racial identity. A more common patriarchal retelling would probably have the couple embroiled in dense class, social, or ethnic divisions i.e. Monster’s Ball (2001). In other wards, there is the assumption that there will be dissenting family members, friends or relatives who are unhappy about the couple’s interracial status. Indeed, a 2006 survey by Cathy Keen of the University of Florida revealed that the majority of biracial couples on screen were portrayed negatively – that is, if they were even show on screen at all.

But here, July summons a casual multiculturalism that demands acceptance. Elsewhere, the filmmaker wrestles with other transgressive matters such as, child sexuality, and even a suggestion of pedophilia. In a mainstream release, such details would be steeped in melodrama – with the intent to shock, or stir audiences. Yet here, we are left feeling empathy for the film’s characters. Take for instance, the portrayal of Andrew (Brad William Henke), a fellow shop worker, who soon finds that two sexually curious teenage girls are trying to seduce him. Andrew’s reaction, which is to play along with the girls, in order to momentarily satisfy his ego, would be greeted with audience scowls in another picture. But here, we understand the root of Andrew’s isolation. He is overweight, lonely, and he feels almost ‘touched’ by the fact that these burgeoning girls have taken a liking to him. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that Andrew was ever going to seriously act upon his impulse – but the subversive element is clear. Despite what the limiting bounds of patriarchy tell us, i.e. that we can only ‘feel’ or be ‘aroused’ by our close relatives (i.e. husbands and wives), who are of the same age, class, racial background…human beings more often than not, are forced to find their meaningful sense of ‘validation’ elsewhere.

For instance, a married man or woman may find that their partner fails to ignite his/her ego, and may flirt with strangers and friends (ones who may be more or less attractive than him/her) – without the real desire to ever actually act upon these urges. But, the fact remains -- all human beings need to feel validated, and the shallow bounds of organized family tradition do not allow scope for this, in light of the emotional failure of human beings.

Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know in a sense is about fulfilling that longing. Each and every one of the characters in the narrative is hell bent on finding the human connection that will help free them from the burden of living alone – each searching for the thing that will help them see the ‘color’ in the banal, the mundane and the everyday. Unfortunately, too often, the peculiarities of how we engage with others around us are restrained by the bounds of conventional patriarchy, and capitalist culture. July’s film isn’t so much about dismissing these rules, but about finding one’s own niche, and hopefully, the courage to live life by one’s own set of values.

10

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image