Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Ultimate Outsider: Marie Losier's THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE

TrustMovies has best be clear upfront: He's known, at a distance, Marie Losier, the director, producer, cinematographer and editor of THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE for a few years now, having used her services when she was associated with (I believe) both uniFrance and FIAF. He had always found her helpful and delightful, one of those people he'll refer to as "dear." He had no idea that she was a filmmaker, however, until she told him this, when she departed from her last full-time job. Consequently, has has been looking forward to this documentary, her first full-length film, ever since -- particularly after learning that it had made numerous appearances on the festival circuit.

Mlle. Losier, shown at right, was born in France but has worked here in the U.S. for a number of years. As a curator, as well as filmmaker, she would be expected to know a good deal about film of all kinds and to most probably have put this knowledge, or a good deal of it, into her film. Would TM, not the most intellectual of reviewers, even be able to understand it all, he wondered? Truthfully, it took him awhile to catch up. He doesn't follow the music scene, nor did he several decades back, when the personage now known as Genesis was performing, with an industrial rock group (industrial rock? I thought that was construction material) known as Throbbing Gristle (how's that for a fab sexual depiction?) and later with another called Psychic TV.

However, TM has found over the years that, when at first he does not understand something, just keep watching and try to keep alert, and eventually all (or most, or at least some) will become clear. And so it was with Ballad. Initially, he did not ever know who was who. Is this Lady Jaye or Genesis, he would wonder? Because there is not much exposition here. Losier just lays into the story of these two people, having Genesis tell most of it, off the cuff and on the fly, catch as catch can -- shifting from present to past and back again a number of times.

Slowly it becomes clear that our ladies -- well, they look like ladies -- are not quite so easily categorized. Genesis (official name Genesis Breyer P-Orridge) was born a boy and in fact is still a man, though a man who has gone through a lot of changes to androgynize, so that he and his love, Lady Jaye, might be more alike. (Pandrogyny, he calls it at some point toward the end of the film.) The more we learn about these two, the more they seem like ultimate outsiders who are determined to keep it that way and in fact expand on their "otherness" in every way possible. Why this came to be is of course up for grabs. But a childhood of incessant bullying could account for the lion's share of the reason. Hear his story of how a teacher once made awful fun of him in front of the entire school, resulting in non-stop bullying: being kicked unconscious on that fateful day and then beaten up every day after for three years.

We see still shots of the young and attractive boy (above), and then some film from the 60s or 70s in which Mr. Breyer P-Orridge is now a big-dicked young man. We know this because we see him take that large member and pee into a milk bottle (I think we need this shot, if only to prove to ourselves that he is indeed a male). Losier's style is elliptical and fragmented, but slowly everything comes together -- the facts of the situation, along with the feeling these generate. And you may be surprised, by the finale, how much feeling there is.

The movie carries us from the 70s -- when an early record proclaims, "We have nothing to say -- and we're saying it! ("Isn't that sophisticated for a 17-year-old?" Genesis asks) -- to how the pair met, to their wedding (at right, at which Lady Jaye played groom and Genesis bride) to the grim reaper. When they both get breast implants to look more alike, one of the children notes, "I could have had a car with that money!"  "We're an art project now," mum/dad answers. And along the way we're treated to numerous examples of the pair's music.

You may have questions by film's end. Regarding the death, did modern medicine or doctors have any real place in their lives (other than those breast implants)? Might this have made a difference? Well, the movie has a cumulative effect in any case. Lasting but 70 minutes, it introduced me to two people I knew nothing of, and who now I most likely will never forget. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye opens today in New York City at the Clearview Cinema Chelsea. For details on more screenings around the country, click here.

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