Two Become One, by Matt Warren
Normally if you’re at a cocktail party and the host queues up some home videos, that’s your cue to fake a cough, grab your wife or girlfriend, and get the fuck out of there. But when the hosts in question are pioneering industrial-rock weirdo Genesis P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and his dominatrix/performance artist wife Lady Jaye Breyer, you might wanna hang out—if only out of sick fascination. That, in a nutshell, is the experience of watching Marie Losier’s new documentary, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, an unexpectedly earnest snapshot of the most passionate and unusual love affairs of the 21st Century.
But unusual is sort of what Genesis P-Orridge is all about. Born in 1950 as Neil Andrew Megson in Manchester, Orridge quickly embraced the counterculture as the founder of Throbbing Gristle, one of the earliest and most influential industrial rock bands. TG may not have been the most tuneful group to ever drill through a bullhorn on stage, but they were uncompromising and original. And these ou`tre´ impulses have carried Orridge through a notable—if not necessarily lucrative—four-decade career in music, Avant garde theater, and hagiographical punditry (judging from his many appearances as a talking head in documentaries such as William S. Burroughs: A Man Within).
But Ballad isn’t a career overview. It’s the story of Orridge and his beloved (second) wife, “Lady Jaye.” Over mostly impressionistic home video footage of the happy couple at home and on tour, Orridge narrates how he and Lady Jaye met, mated, and fell in love. Imagine a bizarro-world version of How I Met Your Mother, chock full of kinky sex and transgressive genderfucking. And while Ballad basically just boils down to home movies with directors’ commentary, the film can’t help but retain the veneer of artfulness, mostly because Genesis and Lady Jaye’s lives themselves were so artful.
To wit, the couple’s grandest “project”: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Happily married, Genesis and Lady Jaye set out to do the same thing most happily-married couples eventually set out to do: use their love to create a third creature. Normally, this means getting down and pinching out some offspring. But no, that’s not how the Orridges roll. Instead, they decided to literally (sort of) merge their physical selves into a pandrogynous, two-bodied entity known by a single combined moniker. What the fuck does that mean, you ask? Well, if you’re Genesis it means becoming vaguely transsexual, getting plastic surgery and breast implants so as to better resemble your soulmate. It’s kind of sweet, actually. Weird, but sweet.
At this point I guess I should point out that Ballad contains a great deal of, well, unconventional nudity, which some viewers may find deathly unappealing. But speaking as someone who regularly watches over 4+ hours of Christina Aguilera on The Voice per week, I can say for a fact that Orridge’s gender-neutral mammaries were only the second most bizarre set of plasticine tits to grace my Vizio this past Tuesday.
Ballad is ultimately little more than a sweet-but-slight glimpse into Orridge’s personal life, unmasking this famously abrasive and uncompromising artist as what he truly is—a big old softy.