'The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye:' Documentary Traces Decades of Transformation
In creating The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, Marie Losier spent seven years with her subjects, documenting their lives and choreographing scenes for them. The film’s strength is the genuine portrayal of its subjects, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, a key figure in the British industrial music scene since the 1960s, and her lover and partner Jacqueline Breyer, known as Lady Jaye.
Rather than relying on archival footage to introduce the pair, Losier used images from Genesis’ past as artwork in fast-paced animation. The film became a pastiche honoring the life and work of a controversial artist, as well as a study of a love affair. The two iconoclasts had surgical procedures to make themselves look like each other and merge into a “pandrogynous” being.
“There was a huge amount of media in the film: 16mm, VHS video, Super 8 film,” says Losier. “So it is constantly going back and forth. The whole film has the feeling of archive because of the tactile techniques I used to bring everything together.”
Genesis had a huge archive going back to the beginning of her work in the late 1960s with COUM Transmissions that she sold to the Tate Modern museum in London. “It was extremely well done and comprehensive, including all the letters with William Burroughs, music tapes, rehearsal tapes, posters and lithography,” says Losier. “I spent a lot of time digging in there.”
Losier primarily shot alone, and her 1920s 16mm Bolex camera became an extension of her. “I approach my subjects as if it were the beginning age of cinema, the time of the Lumière Brothers,” says Losier. “Through the reenactment of scenes from their own lives, what begins to emerge is a truth about Genesis and Lady Jaye that far exceeds the conventions of traditional documentary filmmaking.”
Losier handled all of production. “I do everything. I edit, I shoot, I do the animations, I record sound, I do the costumes, I produced it. I do it all,” she says. Though she does it all, she did not do it all at once—no editing took place along the way. After she stopped shooting, Losier spent eight months editing.
The death of Lady Jaye during the shooting was unexpected and painful. “I didn’t think the film would continue because I didn’t want to intrude with the camera,” says Losier. “For Genesis, I wanted to be there as a friend rather than anything else.”
Genesis felt it was right to complete the project. “It became more about being committed to continuing and putting aside my life to make this film,” says Losier. “I knew there was a film to do."