Tuesday, October 18, 2011

FILM REVIEW: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

I can think of few people more deserving of a feature length documentary portrait than Genesis P-Orridge. From his early extreme performance pieces in COUM Transmissions through his groundbreaking work with Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, P-Orridge has lived his life like it was all one big daring art project. He was able to take this idea to the extreme with the help of his wife, Lady Jaye, with whom he embarked on a new endeavor, attempting to become as close to each other as possible, with end goal of becoming one being of a new gender known as Breyer P-Orridge. Through surgery and dress, the pair came to resemble each other to a remarkable degree, the living embodiment of a devoted, all-encompassing relationship, which in some sense is still going on despite Jaye's tragic death in 2007.

It is this amazing bond that is the focus of Marie Losier's moving new documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Known for her experimental portraits, mainly of other filmmakers, Losier combines performance art and archival footage with intimate, home video style recordings of their loving domestic life. Of course, in the basement of this happy home is a looming reminder that this isn't just any couple, but rather a pair of restlessly creative provocateurs, the legacy of which stretches back decades. This reminder comes in the form of a huge, meticulously maintained archive. Genesis guides a tour through the "ephemera", as he calls it, of a singular life in the arts, including posters, recordings, press clippings and souveniers of his friendship with William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Losier does a good job of capturing the essence of the Breyer P-Orridge exploratory approach to creativity, from his invention, with Throbbing Gristle, of industrial music to their more recent concert and book projects. It should also come as no surprise that the soundtrack is impeccable.

Overall, it's a memorable and stylish film. The performance art aspects of it occasionally fall flat, but most of them are tackled with humor and verve, and Losier finds a good balance between biography and performance. It's perfect for anyone interested in gender politics or challenging modern music, but you don't have to bring anything to the table really, the power of the personalities (personality?) should be enough to ensnare any openminded viewer.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...