Thursday, July 5, 2012


One gets the feeling while watching The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye that musician and artist Genesis P-Orridge's entire life is a performance.  Anyone with any familiarity with his work in the groundbreaking industrial and experimental electro acts Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV might have already had an inkling that this is the case; at any rate, Marie Losier's documentary portrait of Genesis and his wife and collaborator Lady Jaye does little to dispel such assumptions.

While the film does delve into the highlights of Genesis' past, it's chiefly an examination of his and Lady Jaye's pandrogyne project, a living, breathing performance piece wherein both members of the couple underwent various surgeries in order to resemble the other.  It's a fascinating topic that might have been better served by a more direct and confrontational mode of documentation.  As it stands, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a fluttering, dreamlike journey through a willfully individualistic consciousness (all narration comes from Genesis, as Lady Jaye passed away in 2007), often interesting but sometimes frustratingly short on narrative signposts.

The Ballad of Genesis & Lady Jaye begins its run at Cinema 21 on Friday, July 6th.  More info available here.

What can you say about a film that's already been qualified by so many others as the greatest anti-war feature ever made?  Jean Renoir's Le Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) retains all its power some 75 years after its release.  Perhaps it's because nothing has changed; we still fight wars, the indomitable spirit of nationalism drives those efforts, and it almost never yields anything of value for the individual.  Built into those observations, Renoir fashioned an insightful analysis of class manners, emphasizing in particular their inability to withstand the brutality of war.

To commemorate the film's anniversary, Rialto Pictures has released a newly-restored 35mm print that trumps all previous restorations.  Both sound and image now have a crispness that was obscured in previous theatrical prints and home video versions.  As for the story, it still casts a hypnotic hold on this viewer.  First time viewers might notice the strong resemblance to John Sturges' popular 60s film, The Great Escape.  For those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing the film,  here's a rare chance to view it as it was meant to be seen, projected in 35mm onto a large theater screen. 

Grand Illusion begins its week-long run at Cinema 21 on Friday, July 6th.  More info available here.

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