Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
Dir. Marie Losier
Country: USA | Germany | UK | Netherlands | Belgium | France
Aus Rating: N/A
Running Time: 67mins

An exquisitely assembled, if still somewhat haphazardly made, documentary about the life of two industrial punk icons, Marie Losier’s documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a spryly economical look at the face – definitely the face - of two identities who would rather be an underground somebody than a mainstream anything. Clocking in at only 70 minutes, there’s something to be said about Losier’s decision not to pad her debut feature directorial effort with needless nothings. Still, there does appear to be much left unsaid, some of which surely could have taken place of some of the more obtuse segments that float about within the documentary narrative like driftwood.

As if assembled from jaggedly cut puzzle pieces, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye attempts to craft some sort of story out of the lives of Genesis O-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, but focuses more on that of Genesis. Most famous for his work with industrial punk rock outfit Psychic TV as well as the esteemed William Burroughs, before embarking on a body experimentation in pandrogyny with Lady Jaye, his second wife, that aimed to blur the lines between body and gender. Before Lady Jaye’s death at the age of 38, the two had ventured headfirst into their body-morphing project of creating Breyer P-Orridge, a blending of the two through means of plastic surgery.

Lady Jaye, despite being so integral to the story that her name appears in the (rather nifty – something Marie Losie’s filmography shows she is capable of frequently) title, goes somewhat under-nourished by the filmmaker who prefers to stick with the still rather extraordinary life of Genesis. Losier’s frequent work within the realms of experimentation, having worked with the aforementioned Burroughs plus Guy Maddin and the Kuchar Brothers has leant this documentary a fractured texture. Mixing various types of film and video with art, old home movies, photography, original documentary footage and storybook narration, Losier’s film occasionally has the appearance of an unfinished, perhaps disregarded, art installation, and yet this lends it a messy, flighty authenticity.

The work of Losier on her own role as editor is both extraordinary, hypnotic and baffling. Acting as its own ferocious work of art that encapsulates the anarchic spirit of its protagonists, I nevertheless wished it had gleaned a more focused eye on one of the many tangents it goes on. Flashy visuals frequently smash on screen like the twisting mechanics of a kaleidoscope, capturing moments of bliss and poignancy as often as it does highlight the absurdity of their existence. The tagline claims “love is dedication”, and you certainly can’t say these two weren’t dedicated to each other and to their art. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye uses its artist subjects to form its own work of art, and that is something altogether fascinating. However, like any unique work of work, the reaction it gets out of an audience will be Losier and P-Orridge’s reward. The final image of Genesis swathed in fabric feels curiously haunting, his image becoming obscured but never disappearing entirely. No matter the identity, there's always a personality, and that is what Genesis is seemingly all about. B-

Check the MQFF website for screening details

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