Interview: Marie Losier on The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye and creating a film out of two people creating a third
Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye P-Orridge.
Marie Losier spent seven years of her life quietly watching two people become three by becoming one. Even today, she is subdued as she describes what that means. When Genesis P-Orridge, industrial-rock revolutionary and founder of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, moved to New York in the 1990s, he fell in love with a dominatrix almost twenty years his junior. He married her, making her Mrs. Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge and one half of a fifteen-year relationship that spanned music, art and gender in its experimentation. Then he became her. Or they became each other: Throughout The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, the film Losier crafted out of their story, the couple spent years undergoing body modifications for an experiment they called "Creating the Pandrogyne."
By the time they were done, they looked like identical twins. Throughout dozens of surgeries including breast implants, the two unveiled a symbolic third being by melding themselves. And that makes Losier the fourth person in their relationship. Her film will show at the Denver Film Center tomorrow night; before the screening, Show and Tell spoke to Losier about the limits of chronicling a creation.
Westword: How did you become a part of this story?
Marie Losier: I went to a show, but I really didn't know what it was. I had never seen any of Genesis's work before. The third part of the concert was more like a poetry reading. I saw her there, and very, very shortly she asked me what I was doing, and I said, "Film." She gave me her card and said, "Come home with us." I sat there, and Lady Jaye came down and they both looked totally identical in their blonde hair staring at me. I had no clue who they were, but I felt like, "Oh, wow, there's something there that's very special." That's when Jaye pointed at me and said, "You're the one." I asked her, "The one what?," and she said, "You're the one who can film us." They were looking for someone to document what they were doing, even though at the time they did not mean for it to be a film. It was just this grand project. That's when she asked me if I could come on tour with them when Psychic TV toured Europe. I said yes. Of course, I had no clue what I was doing. That was the beginning of a long friendship.
What was it about you that attracted them?
They are very much people who work with their gut feelings, the same way I make every single film that I make. It's really always about conscience and trying just to do it. It was from the friendship that everything developed to become the film. They're always working with the cosmic elements, which they did, and it was the right thing. They just felt a connection, and so did I.
After seven years, how did you know you were done with the film?
It was really tough. After Jaye passed away in 2007, I thought that would be the end of the film, to be honest. I didn't want to intrude with a camera into Genesis's life. I was there as a friend. I stayed by her side and then one day Gen shook up in a way and called me. She said, "You really should finish this film. Even without her, it will be the film that she wanted." So we went and continued, and that's when I became really focused on what was missing. I worked on the stop-motion animation of all the photographs of Jaye and gathered archival footage of her and captured Gen talking about Jaye. But I knew at some point I had to edit and try to see what I had. I had to create this collage and use what I had to tell the story. How did your relationship the Genesis and Lady Jaye develop during filming? After seven years, did it become difficult to distance yourself from the result?
No, I've always made portrait films about people I'm very close to. So it's just a way for me of meeting people who are inspiring. Also, I'm behind the camera, so I'm always in a way protected and absent. A very good friendship inspires this imagery that you wouldn't have if you didn't spend that time and get exclusively close. At the same time, it's painful, like when Jaye passed away and there's just so much involved. Sometimes it's really hard because I have my own private life separate from theirs and I have to focus on both.
When Lady Jaye passed away, it was the hardest moment. I didn't know what to do, and I just didn't want to touch the film anymore. It was really hard to keep going and the joy and the energy were just kind of crushed.
Courtesy of Amelie Losier
What do you think Lady Jaye would think of the film?
Often people say, "Why isn't Lady Jaye more in the film?" And I have to be completely honest because Jaye wanted the film to be made, but she was like a butterfly - very, very mysterious about herself. She always wanted to escape the camera and put Gen there. In the end, it's exactly how she was and how I knew her and how she was with Gen. I think she would be happy because what remains of the film is love and a search for your soul mate. I think, in the end, that's what she wanted.
As far as modern sexuality -- not specifically in the fact that they are doing it but in the way they did do it -- is more open. It's always something binary, which is always black and white. You're a woman, or you're a man. It's always very much about relating to others and behaving nice and having sex and all these ways of embracing your body and relating to society, and I think what I liked is that they created an experiment that mixed art and life in a way that was open without judging. It wasn't what was imposed or expected in a larger way. It's a project.
What is the most significant feedback you've received about the film?
It's so different in every country, but when we opened the film in Berlin, it was an extraordinary moment for me. We had just finished seeing it on this huge screen, and after the screening, it was just this huge silence. No one would ask questions. It was completely, completely silent. Gen and I sat onstage waiting. We weren't nervous or anxious; I just knew that people were so moved. They were crying. It meant so much to me that the audience could feel that way.
And then eight minutes or ten minutes later, people started asking questions. There was a man there who was very interesting because he said, "This is not a question, but I have to say, 'I'm an old man, and I've known Genesis since she was in Throbbing Gristle, and I was freaked out by him. I've known Genesis in other situations and then in the 90s, and I was still freaked out. And today, I saw Genesis in the room and thought I could actually talk to her. I discovered this other side." To me, that was this huge compliment because I didn't want to make this history of rock 'n roll with his background only.
What was Genesis's first reaction to the final film?
She cried. She left home and called me six hours later saying, "You made the most beautiful gift I could ever have. I'll follow you wherever you go." I spent the entire length of the film wondering if this is something I could do for someone I loved, and I'm still not sure ...
So you want to know: Could I? (Laughs.) No, I wouldn't do it in that way. I think for me, it's definitely not my world or my way of doing anything. But what I loved is the love that was there as a basic feeling, the love that is there still. Most people are binary and don't feel that, and that's really what stayed with me and what moved me. There was no fear. They just gave everything.
The film opens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 27 at the Denver Film Center, 2510 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets cost $9.75. For more information, call 303-595-3456 or visit denverfilm.org.
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