In her first scene in Olivier Assayas’ new film “Something in the Air,” Leslie, 17-year-old daugher of an American diplomat, is sitting on the grass with some other young people in a park in Italy. It is the early 1970’s. A man is playing the Phil Ochs song “Ballad of William Worthy” on a dobro guitar. Leslie introduces herself to a painter, Alain (Felix Armand). She then kisses him on the upper lip, takes his hand and leads him away. Impulsif! Leslie speaks to him in English and the sudden change of language, along with her striking beauty, heighten this remarkable introduction of a new character in Assayas’ marvelous portrait —a self-portrait in many ways— of activist student life a few years after the Spring ‘68 events that radicalized so many French youths.
It’s also a stunning entrance by the (now) 20-year-old New York actor and artist India Menuez. India’s credentials are almost a four-decade update of the flower child artist she plays in the film: graduate of an alternative high school in New York, member of the “Luck You” Chinatown-based art collective, frequently featured in style blogs and one of Papermag’s “Beautiful People of 2011.”
This summer India will play a rebellious teen in Brooklyn indie filmmaker Dustin Guy Defa’s latest feature, “Sweet Lover.” Defa (“Fever Dream”) says his team auditioned her and, “we fell in love with her. She is an intelligent and genuine actress.” “Something in the Air” opens in New York this Friday, May 3, at the IFC Center. Read my review of the film here.
Herbert Gambill: I see a lot of similarities between the students in this film and the preoccupations of students today—a renewed interest in political change, collective work, questioning values, a frustration over the delayed arrival of a better world that earlier generations seemed to think was on the horizon. I’m very curious to see what people who took part in Occupy Wall Street will make of this film—will they be heartened by it?
India Menuez: What I understand OWS to be doing is simply creating a broad call to general action. But that makes it seem a bit pointless—which I don’t think it is—because it is a choir of many different calls, which together become a kind of magical confusing song of hope. The issues are multifaceted and each of these facets are respected in their complexity with “never white wash” sticker stamp solutions attached, which becomes part of the confusion but then again gives the movement a sense of being real. I imagine a lot of it being like an elaborate tapestry, the picture we together compose of our world, this collective society, something along those lines—a collection of complicated knots. It’s complicated. Read more