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 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.” [Synopsis courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Tribeca Narrative, Documentary and Viewpoints sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
“The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye”
Primary Cast: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, Big BoyBreyer P-Orridge
Director(s): Marie Losier
Producer(s): Marie Losier, Steve Holmgren, Martin Marquet
Editor: Marie Losier
Additional Editor: Marc Vives
Director of Photography: Marie Losier
Sound Editing: Marie Losier
Sound Mix and Composer: Bryin Dall
Responses courtesy of “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” director Marie Losier.
An ex leads to a career…
Films were part of my life since I was a kid. I used to sneak out of classes to go watch films and later on, when I lived in Paris, I’d skip so many of my studies just running to see all the films at Rue Des Ecoles and La Cinemateque Francaise. Later, during my Masters studies, I worked for Richard Foreman making props for his plays and this became a life changing experience for me. It brought me close to the experimental and underground world I never left since. I had always been scared to make films since I loved them so much yet one day a boyfriend gave me this beautiful old bolex as a separation present! And it all started there! I lost the boy but gained the camera, nothing better!
I was and still am clumsy… Never studied film and technique, but it has become part of my work. I went to Millennium Workshop where I met my first film subject and very close friend, Mike Kuchar. From this friendship came my first film, “Bird Bath and Beyond.” The use of the bolex, is very much like the act of painting to me, because it has texture, it is very physical and old like all things old I adore.
A need to bring Genesis to the masses…
My films are always document a story of friendship, a surprising unexpected encounter that lasts very long. That is how I met Genesis.
I first saw Genesis perform seven years ago, at the Knitting Factory, the now legendary club in Tribeca. Watching him 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 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!
In a typically miraculous New York City coincidence, I met Genesis at a gallery opening in Soho, in 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, 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 email. Whether it was fate or pure clumsiness, this marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration that would develop into a close friendship.
When I met Genesis and Lady Jaye in their home after having corresponded with Genesis, on our first meeting, I was sitting in that giant green plastic chair in the shape of a hand, and they were looking at me very intensively for a long time. We talked and it was evident I was not a fan, I didn’t know much about who they where and I was not making commercial films at all. After 20 minutes, Jaye said loud “She is the one”…..so they explained they wanted someone who can film their life and were waiting for that person for a long time. After after 30 minutes I found myself invited to go on tour with them and PTV3 in a month. I left with the band on tour, in a giant bus, with my bolex 16mm hand cranked camera from the silent film era that I always use, and a ton of 3 min roll of films. It started there and last seven years!
A one woman show…
I work alone, never have a crew. I do it all: Camera and sound and editing. I just spend years with the subjects of my film and accumulate footage of daily life, our friendship, and little by little the theme and feeling of the film appears to the structure of the whole. The friendship draws slowly the shape and color of the film. I never write a script or plan the whole feel of the film at all, it just comes with time and I do direct many scenes as fiction, set up interviews at time, mix fiction and daily life constantly.
I always mix surreal scenes, sort of living tableau, with daily life scene, fiction, with archival footage, and shoot with a bolex, old hand cranked bolex with 100 feet rolls of films which already forces me to do a sort of collage since I can only shoot 3 minutes at a time.
The editing is an essential part of my work. It really is for me like a collage always, very physical and almost a dance of sounds and movements. I found that daily life is one element that very few people have access to and the most banal and beautiful thing to discover is the character you film. So I spent a lot of the time just filming them cooking, dressing, sleeping, walking, working. I had filmed many musicians (Peaches, Gibby Haynes, Sleazy from TG) and friends, families, artists…But when I started editing I realized that the only way I would know how to build the film would be to keep it an intimate world with only Genesis and Lady Jaye’s voice.
Jaye’s death was a huge challenge and moment in my ballad in making the film. It was incredibly difficult for every one, very painful for me…I adored Jaye and she was so so kind and a great friend .It was devastating to Genesis…still is.
I really thought it would be the end of the film because I didn’t want to intrude with my camera while this was happening. Genesis was completely broken and the story was over for that moment. But with all the strength and life that Genesis has in her, she pulled it together and told me to not stop and keep filming in homage to Jaye and that Jaye wanted me to make a film on their love story. I hope this will make Jaye smile forever.
This project took seven years to make so I think for a while I will just accompany the film until I have time again to make some short music videos and try maybe for the first time to direct a fictional narrative. A sort of musical western maybe!