Writer-director Miranda July's 2004 debut feature isn’t without flaws, but it is astonishing -- with such a disarming, sweetly ingenious presence of mind that it seems like a miracle. The array of July's thematic concerns -- our gropes for connectedness, sexual and technological curiosity, fine-art pretense, identity as a function of sought approval -- is vast, yet she shows great restraint in subordinating her satirical impulses to more humane ones.
Most prominent among the movie's luminous narrative vignettes is the halting romance between a conceptual artist (played by the director, who is herself a conceptual artist) and a shoe salesman (John Hawkes). July's dramatization is full of surprises, and her fertile imagination is tempered with rare poetic intelligence. Rather than doling out artful ideas with reckless abandon, she takes the trouble to build them into characters. The result, for all its affinity with the rough-hewn and shapeless, is a kind of lapidary perfection, ennobling its material and renewing the prospects of American moviemaking.
Film Salon has invited a group of special guests to write about their favorite film(s) of the 2000s. To read the entire series, go here.