Cat couple's tale of woe enchants Sundance

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The Independent Culture

The story of a young couple who decide to adopt a cat to enliven their monotonous lives, but then split up as a result, is beguiling audiences at the Sundance Film festival.

But the movie is far from a simple tale of a romantic break-up; US actress and filmmaker Miranda July sees "The Future" as a poetic and absurdist exploration of living in the present, rather than an imagined future.

After her debut "Me and You and Everyone We Know" won a special jury prize at Sundance in 2005 and a Golden Camera in Cannes, the new film was eagerly awaited at this year's festival, which runs until January 30.

As in her first film, July plays the female lead.

The movie tells the story of a couple in their 30s, who hit upon the idea of adopting a cat to break the monotony of a life in a small Los Angeles apartment - and the tedium of jobs they hate.

But before bringing the feline home, and fearing its arrival will deprive them of a freewheeling lifestyle, the two lovebirds decide to ditch their everyday jobs, pursue their dreams and enjoy life.

If Jason, played by Hamish Linklater, has no specific dream and is waiting for destiny to knock on his door, Sophie, played by July, knows what she wants: to videotape a dance scene and put it on YouTube.

But the undertaking looks difficult, and Sophie quickly gets discouraged and finds consolation in the arms of a stranger, putting her marriage at risk.

"I feel she sort of naively thinks, 'I'm going to do this thing now that I have always wanted to do .. But she realizes that it's so hard and paralyzing. And for me this feeling is really like a true villain," she told AFP.

"You can have, for example, a great idea for a novel, and then, the day after, when you begin to write, you think, 'Oh, this is a little hard' and the next day it's 'Oh, so hard!.'

"And then, suddenly, 'What if I can't do that?' That's the very moment when you have to look at yourself in the face, but she does not, whatsoever. She doesn't even want to know herself."

Full of surprises and unexpected turns, the film tells the story of a couple in an absurd mode, helped by the performance of July herself.

The movie has plenty of humor, even if July is wary of playing for laughs.

"It's a second nature, that I am aware of, but there is a point where sometimes I have to calm myself down and tell myself: 'That's OK, that doesn't need to have a funny line,'" July said.

"Because it's so easy for me. The performer inside me likes this comfort zone."

But humor does not prevent the filmmaker from telling the painful drama of a couple breaking up - and switching to a non-realistic filming style to highlight the emotions.

"When I was editing my first movie, I was living a really sad break-up," July recalled.

"I was really shocked and I remember thinking, 'It's like the world has been turned upside down, like there is nothing that is normal.' I couldn't do this separation in a naturalistic way."

Paradoxically, despite its title, the movie dwells also on the present.

"I'm very ruled by that kind of always wanting something to look forward to, which is good because it means that I like to work very hard, make things happen," she said.

"But it means also that I'm never really in the present. Give a chance to the present."