plus The Wrong-Eyed Jesus and They Shoot Movies, Don’t They?

One of the surprise indie hits of 2005 was Miranda July’s quirky and intelligent comedy about the bizarre ways that people’s lives can intersect. Me and You and Everyone We Know is an impressively confident debut, even more so after we see July’s interview that comes as an extra feature in the DVD where she talks candidly about her lack of expertise in film technique (July comes from a performance art background).

Perhaps it was her naiveté that conferred the film with the unpretentious grace that makes it so charming. The main character, Christine, is played by July herself, a comically nervy aspiring artist who pays her bills as a cab driver for older people. A chance encounter with shoe salesman Richard (John Hawkes) ignites hopes in her that she may have found love. But Richard is a reluctant divorcee with two children, the teenage Peter and the seven-year-old Robbie, surely one of the most adorable children to appear in film in recent memory.

July’s light touch enables her to deal with topics that could otherwise be seen as ‘taboo’ such as child and teenage sexuality and Christine’s own obsessive behaviour pattern. Full of memorable sequences (the goldfish on the hood of a car, Robbie’s internet ‘affair’ to name but a few) and a great soundtrack into the bargain, Me and You and Everyone We Know should be seen by exactly that number of people.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

A British look at a very American landscape, Andrew Douglas’s Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus follows ‘Alt Country’ singer and legend Jim White (the title of the film is based on White’s 1997 album The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus) on a road trip across the American spiritual trail, which has continuously fascinated Europeans because of the perception of its being the most authentic part of America.

To a certain extent this poses a problem because the said fascination sometimes erupts into ‘fashionation’, polishing out the grit. However, White is an insider (he grew up in Pensacola, Florida) who rises above this minor drawback. His encounters with music luminaries such as the Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd, David Eugene Edwards and David Johansen provide the film with plenty of insight into the imagination of a mystic-realist Deep South.

They Shoot Movies, Don’t They? The Making of Mirage

Another addition to the film-within-the-film Hollywood satire genre, ‘They Shoot Movies…’ works on two levels. The intended one is that it is a low-key mockumentary about Tom Paulson, an ex-sportsman who is the subject of a documentary chronicling his desperate attempt to complete his film, The Mirage. Despite the occasional mannerism that gives the game away, director Frank Gallagher succeeds in creating a film that looks as unaesthetic as you would expect from a low-budget documentary. The characters all look like they are waving from a 1980s flotsam.

But there is also another layer to this film which is a joke on the makers themselves. As a topic, Hollywood as a devilish machine is as old as Billy Wilder’s 1950 Sunset Boulevard. But the overall impression about They Shoot…‘s is that it is a self-parody, something of a meta-documentary about a crew trying to make a mockumentary. This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film, not to mention the hammy solution at the end. In truth, it’s precisely this self-deceiving aspect of the film that renders it compelling and eloquent on the topic it tackles. Who knows?

All three DVDs are out now.