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The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye - Movie Review - 2011

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The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye - Movie Review - 2011

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye Poster Art

Adopt Films

The Art of Mixing Marriage and Music

Filmmaker Marie Losier's first feature documents the singular relationship between musician and performance artist Genesis P'Orridge (nee Neil Andrew Megson in 1950) and his wife and creative partner Lady Jaye (nee Jacqueline Breyer).

For those who are unfamiliar with their work, the pair have been high profile on the industrial and techno music scene for almost two decades. But their most notable performance was their mutual self-transformation to be as physically like each other as possible. At first, they just dressed like each other. But to satisfy their goal of becoming one -- or perhaps their goal was to become as physically identical as possible, with the idea that doing so would transform both of them into an identical third person (if that makes sense) -- they took to plastic surgery.

In the film, we see how their faces are restructured via numerous surgeries, how Genesis gets breast implants to become more like Lady Jaye. They become what they call pandrogynous -- a third gender.

For The Love Of Art

The notion is an odd one, and it isn't clear whether this is transformation is really an expression of obsessive love or the commitment to an ongoing piece of mutually satisfying performance art. Or both. Probably both.

Throughout the film, Genesis' voice over narration -- which is often matched up with images that seem somewhat out of sync, and at times even contradictory -- expresses his views about life as art or art as life, and gives us a sense of his personality. But his musings don't provide us with an understanding of the genesis of his behavior or his philosophy. And, his comments skim the surface of a troubled background that might Nor is there much information about his background that might explain all that.

The film uses snips and clips of archival footage and Losier's original material to show the evolution of their relationship from when they met in 1993 and fell in love instantly and to such an extent that they began their mutual makeovers, up until Lady Jaye's death from stomach cancer in 2007 and to today, when Genesis seems to think that he is still, in some way, she. Actually, one of the most moving moments in the film is Genesis' description of the loss of Lady Jaye, his wife, lover, partner, soul mate, and twin by design. That's a loss that's overwhelming.

The Daily Life of A Pandrogynous Pair

Much of the footage shows Genesis and Lady Jaye going about their daily doings at home and in public, where they - snipped and clipped as they are -- seem to be a remarkably regular couple who engage in ordinary pleasures and chores, albeit with a quirky bent for costuming themselves in fetishist gear and matching makeup.

Sometimes they do seem to be vamping for Losier's camera, which sometimes seems to take an unduly adulatory point of view. The shots indicate great access and a high degree of intimacy, yet much of what we see seems like self-conscious performance. It would be good to see more of what goes on in that nest when either or both of the pandrogynous lovebirds -- or their circle of collaborators, friends and fans -- aren't cooing for the camera.

Selective Focus

In fact, the title of the film is a very good indication of its focus. There is little information about Genesis' volatile and controversial personal life -- about his first wife, kids and allegations of child abuse, for example -- pre-Lady Jaye. And, don't expect a chronology of Genesis' career, or an analysis of his trend-setting role in the evolution of funk, industrial and techno, or revealing backstories about his legendary bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. So, if you're interested in taking the musicological pulse of Genesis and Lady Jaye, you might be disappointed.

But The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a compelling character study and a fascinating reflection of contemporary culture.

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Film Details:

  • Title: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
  • Director: Marie Losier
  • US Theatrical Release: March 9, 2012
  • Premiere: February 15, 2011 (Berlin Film Festival)
  • Running Time: 65 mins.
  • Parental Guidance: Advisory for Parental Guidance for content, language.
  • Location: New York and England
  • Language: English
  • Production Country: USA
  • Distribution Company: Adopt Films (USA)
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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