Experimental filmmaker Marie Losier makes engaging cinematic portraits of figures in avant-garde circles, among them George Kuchar (Electrocute Your Stars, TFF '05) and Guy Maddin (Manuelle Labor, TFF '07), and choreographs performance pieces starring outrageous, costumed characters. In her first feature-length film, she combines these two strands of her filmmaking practice.
Seven years in the making, Ballad is a mesmerizing and deeply romantic love story between pioneering musician and performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and soul mate Lady Jaye. Breaking new ground in its depiction of gender transformation and identity, the film chronicles the physical and spiritual merging of two beings into one. Eschewing the classic talking heads documentary format, Losier's film employs Genesis as the narrator of her own life story. Losier animates this soothing narration with experimental techniques, including the breathless pace of her 16mm moving camera, accelerated and slow motion, rapid montage, over- and underexposed images, camera flares, archival material, and reenactments that enliven this heartfelt tale of love and loss. Losier's film also captures unique behind-the-scenes preparations and live performances of their bands that pioneered industrial music, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, closing in perfect form with the evocative and poignant love ballad "The Orchids."
Director's Statement Collapse
My story with Genesis P-Orridge begins five years ago in a typically miraculous New York City coincidence. Before I had ever met him, I'd seen him perform at a concert at the Knitting Factory, the now legendary club in Tribeca. For me, watching Genesis perform was pure enchantment. His words from the stage hovered somewhere between song and speech, deeply poetic, primitive, at times frightful. It completely hypnotized me. I had never seen anyone like him, because his appearance was that of the raw image one might have of a "rock-and-roll chick," and yet Genesis was a man. I knew immediately, I had to film this perplexing and powerful figure, perhaps as a way of understanding what I had experienced, but moreover to have proof of the existence of a being I was convinced had arrived from somewhere else!
A week later, I was at a gallery opening in SoHo, one of those sardine-can spaces where you can barely walk and hardly breathe. Being relatively small, I got pressed into a corner where I inadvertently stepped on someone's toes. I turned to apologize and there was Genesis smiling, talking with the Icelandic singer Bjork, his gold capped teeth glittering down over me. We spoke briefly, but in that time I felt something special had passed between us. He asked me about my films and gave me his e-mail. Whether it was fate or pure clumsiness, this marked the beginning of our artistic collaboration, one that would develop into a close friendship.
Both Genesis and Lady Jaye were born with life-changing illnesses, imprinting upon them from an early age an incredibly complex relationship to their bodies. Later in life, they became gender variant activists, their mutating appearance based on gestural aesthetics, a living project documented through their collaborative paintings, photographs, writings and performances. With Lady Jaye's death, as a way to honor his lost love, Genesis remains committed to his quest for the Pandrogyne.
It was in 2003 that Genesis changed his name to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, beginning a performance series called Breaking Sex. This project was about reunion and resolution of male and female to a perfecting hermaphroditic state through cosmetic surgery, blurring the line between the sexes, bringing Genesis and Lady Jaye nearer to one physically.
The passing of Lady Jaye is central to my film. I thought this tragic event would prevent me from continuing to shoot, but I was surprised to find Genesis wanting to continue. In his mind, the completion of this film would be the most appropriate way to honor his love and life with Jaye, a message of hope and solidarity with artists and lovers everywhere, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. By allowing me unprecedented access over these past many years to film their professional and personal lives, I believe I have material that transcends most fiction films, but whose message is ultimately grounded in the most humanistic and basic of desires: the affirmation of love.
About the Director(s)Collapse
MARIE LOSIER is a filmmaker and curator working in New York City. She has shown her films and videos at museums, galleries, biennials, and festivals. She studied literature at the University of Nanterre in France and fine art in NYC. Her films are shown at The Tate Modern, the Whitney Biennial, PS1, MoMA, the Berlin Film Festival, and elsewhere.