The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
Berlinale ForumFrom the director of PEACHES GOES BANANA! presented at FIDLab
Genesis P-Orridge has been one of the most innovative and influential figures in music and fine art for the last 30 years. A link between the pre- and post-punk eras, he is the founder of the legendary groups COUM Transmissions (1969-1976), Throbbing Gristle (1975-1981), and Psychic TV (1981 to present), all of which merged performance art with rock music. Celebrated by critics and art historians as a progenitor of “industrial music”, his innovations have transformed the character of rock and electronic music while his prodigious efforts to expand the boundaries of live performance have radi- cally altered the way people experience sound in a concert setting.
But that’s just the preamble to the story. Defying artistic boundaries, Genesis has re- defined his art as a challenge to the limits of biology. In 2000, Genesis began a series of sex reassignment surgeries in order to more closely resemble his love, Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline Breyer), who remained his wife and artistic partner for nearly 15 years. It was the ultimate act of devotion, and Genesis’s most risky, ambitious, and subversive performance to date: he became a she in a triumphant act of artistic self-expression. Genesis called this project “Creating the Pandrogyne”, an attempt to deconstruct two individual identities through the creation of an indivisible third.
Tragically, Lady Jaye died in 2007, leaving Genesis devastated, though resilient. Since then, he has ceaseless pursued his physical ideal: a perfect mirror of Lady Jaye’s in- comparable beauty.
This is a love story, and a portrait of two lives that illustrate the transformative powers of both love and art. Marie Losier brings to us the most intimate details of Genesis’s extraordinary, uncanny world. In warm and intimate images captured handheld, Losier crafts a labyrinthine mise-en-scene of interviews, home movies, and performance foot- age. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye documents a truly new brand of Romantic consciousness, one in defiance of the daily dehumanization of the body by the perva- sive presence of advertising and pornography, conveying beauty, dignity and devotion from a perspective never before seen on film.
- Calligari Film Prize, Berlinale
- Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film, Berlinale
- Special mention, The Libraries Jury, Cinéma du Réel
- Special mention, The Institut Français Jury, Cinéma du Réel
- Grand Prize, IndieLisboa
- Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
- Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge
- Big Boy (Breyer P-Orridge)
- Marie Losier
- Marie Losier
- Marie Losier
Much of the film has been shot using a silent Bolex 16mm film camera. Since I primarily shoot alone, the Bolex has become a vital part of my body, almost like an extra hand, a very human camera allowing me to communicate what I need to visually while liberating me completely from any fears during shooting. Being somewhat small and acrobatic, a dynamic relationship often develops between me and my subjects yielding beautiful, improvisatory, motion photography. In addition, I have employed state of the art HD video technology to capture numerous interviews and performances with Genesis allowing me exclusive access to his private film and media archive, literally hundreds of hours of found footage collected over many years, news clips and home movies (some dating back several decades and never before seen publicly).
I envision the film as an agile, mobile, playful, hand-spliced patchwork of iconic images, one which captures the constant activity, flow and theatricality of the lives of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Second cameraman Benjamin Kasulke brings with him a completely original aesthetic. Having recently shot Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain, a film whose surreal, perfectly crafted, black and white cinematography bristles with an intuitive sense of movement, Kasulke’s mastery of magical Meliesesque superimpositions will be used to illustrate the Pandrogeny process.
Woven from stories, memories, dreams, music and interviews, several portions of the film have been shot in a studio employing elaborate costumes and choreography to dramatize key moments in the lives of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Big Boy and Genesis P-Orridge, 2008.
I approach my subjects as if it were the beginning age of cinema, the time of George Melies and the Lumiere Brothers, by creating tableau vivants-comical, colorful, mise-en-scene recreating stories and interviews. By re-enacting scenes from their own lives, what begins to emerge is a truth that far exceeds the conventions of traditional documentary filmmaking. By approaching my subjects from oblique angles, my editing style functions like a colorful, incongruent, tapestry; small details offering a more acute sense of the whole. 9 directors statement(continued) Neil Andrew Megson 6 years old.
The film will attempt to present the incredible complexity of Genesis’ personality from many different angles, most especially my subjective point of view. From my earliest films, my feeling has been that when shooting real life subjects, my very presence changes the reality of what I am filming. Therefore, I am not a neutral participant, but one equally engaged and inspired by what is happening in front of my camera. I chose to capture the essence of my subjects from a multiplicity of angles, pulling back different layers of reality in an effort to reveal something unexpected. This is why, for me, fiction and fantasy have become integral parts of what I do. As a filmmaking practice, it is a form of psychodrama allowing my subjects to step outside of themselves and fixed habits of mind. What often happens is that hidden or unknown parts of their personality begin to emerge; through the veil of fiction one begins to understand a person’s fantasy life, their secret wishes and desires, their most powerful feelings about the world and their place in it.
In one sequence, I filmed Genesis speaking about how he writes music in a beautiful bird costume I made for him. His words and gestures are translated into images as he whistles his music and talks about how he creates certain sounds. The whole scene becomes magical, he acts out his music, the costume amplifying a humorous, freer, aspect of Genesis’s personality few have ever had a chance to see. In another scene, I built a set for him to reenact how he first met Lady Jaye. It is an incredible moving scene that poetically and visually expresses the stages of his love for Lady Jaye.
I have 4 hours of 16mm footage and 30 hours of interviews on HD video. I shot the staged and fictional elements with my Bolex 16mm giving this material a more cinematic, oeneiric, feel. I intend to weave this footage with the interviews and scenes from Genesis’s daily life shot in HD, a format more traditionally associated with modern documentary filmmaking. Conforming and transferring the 16mm footage to HD, the film will be edited on Final Cut Pro, for a final feature length film rendered in high definition for transfer to 35mm.
Music is the primary way Genesis has made his living and will be an integral part of the film helping to shape its narrative and rhythm. Genesis has generously allowed me 10 to use his music which will be combined with recordings of interviews, concerts and rehearsals, taped over several years and in many different formats including reel to reel, camera recordings and open microphone. I will be working with an engineer to mix and conform the sound so I can seamlessly blend the soundtrack over the images. Working with Brion Dall, a trusted collaborator of Genesis who mixed all of Psychic TV albums, his knowledge and care for this material will be of great benefit in composing a complex, other worldly, soundtrack employing speech, music and found sounds.
For 4 years I have been filming incredible stories from Genesis’s close friends, including musicians, writers, and filmmakers Orlan, Jim Jarmusch, Tony Oursler, Peaches and Chris Christerpherson. I have many interviews still planned including Jenny Schlenzka, Film Curator at MoMA (NYC), where Genesis will be delivering a talk about her career in March 2010, and an interview with Caresse, Genesis’s daughter living in Turkey, confirmed for next year pending additional funds that might help bring her to NYC.
- STEVE HOLMGREN
- MARTIN MARQUET
Just shoot three-minute snippets of film that you collage together. And that's the way I've always worked
Marie Losier, born in France in 1972, is a filmmaker and curator working in New York. First, she studied literature at the University of Nanterre (France) and then Fine Arts in New York City. She has made a number of film portraits on avant-garde directors, musicians and composers such as Mike and George Kuchar, Guy Maddin, Richard Foreman, Tony Conrad and Genesis P-Orridge. Whimsical, poetic, dreamlike and unconventional, her films explore the life and work of these artists. Her films are regularly shown at prestigious art and film festivals and museums. Her first feature film is a portrait of the musical genius Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her band Psychic TV. The work in progress was presented in 2009 at The Centre George Pompidou in April to open “Hors Pistes”, as well as at the Cinemathèque Francaise in Paris in September. In 2011 the completed result of this project, THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE, premiered in Berlinale Forum, winning the Teddy Award for Best Documentary and the Calligari Film Prize. Her latest short documentary FELIX IN WONDERLAND (2019) was selected in the Fuori Concorso section at Locarno FF.
Felix in Wonderland
Cassandro the Exotico!
Here in Lisbon - Episodes of a City
L'Oiseau de la Nuit
Alan Vega: Just a Million Dreams
Bim, Bam, Boom, las Luchas Morenas
Eat My Makeup!
Cet air la
Slap the Gondola!
Tony Conrad: DreaMinimalist
The Ontological Cowboy
Electrocute Your Stars
Lunch Break on the Xerox Machine
The Touch Retouched