She makes one movie every 5 – 10 years, but when it comes out… she strikes again: Miranda July with her third feature film “Kajillionaire”, presented for schools at the Rome Film Festival. In Italian it is presented with the addition of the subtitle “La truffa è di famiglia!”, (“The scam is in the family!”), trying to put a meaning next to a word that has none even in English… pure American slang to indicate “someone absurdly rich”. After billions and trillions, only the “ka-jing” sound from the comics remained! It could be heard when the old cash registers were opened…
[We do not provide spoilers, but scenes, suggestions and interpretations yes … so if you have an iron memory and within a month you think you will remember everything about this article… read it after the film and let us know what you think!]
Finally, if you add a bit of plot… “July humor”, both light and edgy, is served again. A cold and wretched family (father, mother, daughter) living in a former office in a sort of “Bubbles factory” (?) with a strange “foam” dripping from one, specific wall and only at a specific time… yet it costs what it costs (more than a thousand dollars per month) because it is absurd, but this is the reality in a rich country as the United States. A family that is almost sympathetic, if it wasnn’t for the harsh tenderness that this daughter expresses (and the interpretation of Eva Rachel Wood says a lot), continuously busy in improbable activities through phenomenal expedients. With a certain standard of living you wouldn’t expect flights or more than 500 dollars in gifts… (in this film specific numbers turn until you find a perfect composition). But thanks to winnings, scams, refunds, living in this way too is another reality that, as often, the United States has reached earlier, showing it to others.
After 15 years from the debut with Me and you and everyone we know, and the subsequent The future (2011), times and abysses return, starry vaults, darkness, certain emotions waiting, certain fears expressed in a few words. Time with a capital T. The many characters linked, and all protagonists. And this lightness of Miranda July with which she is able to deal with big and upsetting things that to some extent really exist. To laugh with them. And finally exorcise them through the visual symbols of her art, as a “video artist by birth” that she is. The first film at the time struck me so much that it became the center of my degree thesis in communication, genre and visual anthropology.
Miranda July. “A genius” or “a fool” are the usual words occuring when talking about her. The circuit is the one of independent films, that is outside “the cinematographic American standard” to which we are forced to become more and more accustomed, as they invade many European theaters. Taste, shape, editing made up of intensity, speed, thrill. Above all, this almost continuous plunge into “a catastrophic future” instead of letting oneself go to a “more curious reflection on the present”… and she was one of the first among the new filmakers generation.
If you let yourself go enough, “Miranda’s visual taste, which continually touches the unreal and poetic, seems to transform, at least for a moment and only then, the world in which we really live. It cannot be real because we find ourselves longing for that world”, I wrote 15 years ago. Today I add that, in fact, I would define Miranda as a real “visual curandera” who plays with all her means (symbols, colors, numbers, words, objects, bodies, expressions, music) to strike with a profound message that is much more clear of what could appear at first.
The story of this daughter, Old Dolio, confirms this. A beautiful girl with long hair, hunched shoulders, huge clothes, and above all a horrendous name. Parents gave her the name of a homeless man who, at his death, should have given her his inheritance. Just to remain in disbelief in front of the most cynical paradox of these parents out of any stereotype (for the great interpretations of Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins). A girl who pretends to identify with a daughter who she does not have, hurt like her, and caressed for the first time like her. Because maybe it can’t be said to have a mother just for her eventual presence. Even becoming addicted to her, as it happens with drugs, and despite she immediately put the newborn Old Oldio in a cradle. (There’s a beautiful side story about “the breast crawl”). We can be present without being really here. And this goes not only for Old Dolio, but also for Melanie (through Gina Rodriguez’s sweet amazement) who has everything, but she feels nothing the same. It is especially true for many people and it is very different from having or not having a mother.
The great and paradoxical human exploitation reveals very subtle, similar and real “mechanics” that happen between people, but they are almost never raised. It is truly touching to see Old Dolio genuinely laughing in the middle of the farce of the happy family… entering the world of lonely people… just to rob them. People who are just like them, but only she is able to see it, even if she seems the most naive. People against people, it seems. But their are solitudes the same way. And there may be a raw tenderness in this. Even if with little you pretend to have much…. life is what it is. Indeed, “life is nothing”, says Old Dolio, “I have no regrets in leaving it because I only ate one pancake in my life”.
If Old Dolio for her birthday receives 18 gifts from her parents, but all together, and she’s already 26… it’s funny, but also horribly sad. Because no tenderness, no hope seems to survive, until a new trust, a newfound ability to touch each other is affirmed. “Old Dolio learned how to falsify before she wroted”, proudly claims her father. But in the end she, the one who has never had anything, buys an “hon” said with love, a pancake in the pan, a ballet and the coveted “breast crawl”… for 1,525 dollars. The profit of her scam to prove to her parents her abilities, as all children do, but they are the ones unable to demonstrate anything. If not another grotesque show.
The foam drips onto the wall as if stained with blood. A fluffy blood, perhaps perfumed, which must be collected before it floods everything. In front of that wall, when for the first time Old Dolio has some money for herself, with her name written on it, she will flee away from the hateful tasks. And the viewer was looking forward to it. He wasn’t even just any spectator. The screening was reserved for schools, at the cinema there were only high school kids, teachers and a few journalists. At the end of the movie, the whole room filled with a deep sigh. Spontaneous reactions at cinema, in front of the big screen, are quite rare by now. If this is not the sign that a story has taken us, and maybe even healed…