“Sex is a virus,” says Richard Foreman in Marie Losier's short film about his experimental theater work, The Ontological Cowboy, screening Sunday at LA Filmforum. “Let's not kid ourselves: we're driven so we will fuck, so we will produce babies.”
Sexuality certainly could be said to course through the veins of Losier's films, but more often than not it's thrillingly murky and atmospheric rather than goal-oriented. The 39 year-old French-born, New York-based filmmaker and curator seems less interested in sex as a tool of reproduction than as a production in and of itself.
In that sense, Losier perhaps finds her ideal subject in Psychic TV frontman/performance artist/professional boundary demolisher Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, who appears in Losier's fantastic musical fantasy shorts Papal Broken-Dance and Slap the Gondola, both screening on Filmforum's Sunday lineup.
P-Orridge's transformative late career and second marriage — including his surgically-aided evolution from straight male father of two into a “pandrogynous being” who adopted the physical characteristics of wife Lady Jaye — is the subject of Losier's first feature-length documentary, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which screens at Outfest this weekend before opening Allison Anders' Don't Stop the Rock festival at Cinefamily next week.
A pioneer of industrial music in deep creative debt to William S. Burroughs' philosophy of the “cut-up,” P-Orridge's deep bond with Jaye — a performance artist in her own right, who he married in 1993 and lived and collaborated with until her untimely death in 2007 — became the subject of his most elaborate, and literal, homage to the art of radical collage.
In addition to encapsulating the second half of P-Orridge's 40-year-plus musical career, Ballad documents the surgical procedures that husband and wife underwent in attempt to become carbon copies of one another, up to and including identical breast implants. “You fall in love with someone, and there's this moment where you just want to consume each other, and not be individuals anymore,” P-Orridge says in Losier's film. “We had that so strongly that we felt we wanted to pursue that, and not just talk about it, but live it.”
P-Orridge's life thus becomes an artistic exploration of innate beauty versus artificial, and the performative processes that connect the two. Losier splices intimate verite footage of Genesis' life with and without Jaye (they're first seen lazily roaming NYC together, husband looking like the bloated older sister of his wife) with dreamy, highly choreographed sequences set to Genesis' narration of his own life story. Just as the couple evolve into a living cut-up, the film follows suit.
This feat of form following content is not unusual for Losier: the one true signature connecting her shorts may be her ability absorb the stylistic tropes of the work of her collaborators/subjects, and project back imagery that's a distinct marriage of their style and her own. Her short Manuelle Labor, a collaboration with Guy Maddin, glosses the Canadian auteur's patented silent film pastiche with a winking spirit of childlike play, which also infects her two music video-style shorts with Porridge.
Even when collaborating with other artists, Losier's borrowing of lo-fi, proudly cheesy special effects, her fascination with less-than beautiful women and men burlesquing masculinity, and use of familiar music cues (classical, pop, movie scores) loaded with nostalgic connotation calls to mind the work of George and Mike Kuchar, the experimental filmmaking brothers with whom Losier works and plays direct tribute to in three films on Sunday's slate, including Eat My Makeup (starring George Kuchar), Snowbeard (a portrait of Mike Kuchar on his last day living in New York), and Electrocute Your Stars.
In the latter, my pick for the highlight of the show, Losier constructs psychedelic visual riffs on George Kuchar's classic Weather Diaries series and his seminal Hold Me While I'm Naked, while via voiceover George deconstructs his own process in his inimitable patois. It's just one of Losier's many portraits of artists in a program which represents a kind of pocket history of certain giddily transgressive strains of avant-garde.
The Ballad of Lady Jaye screens at Outfest on Saturday, July 9, and at Cinefamily on Thursday, July 14. Genesis P-Orridge performs with his band Thee Majesty after the Outfest screening, Saturday night at REDCAT.
Los Angeles Filmforum presents Flying Fish and Dream Portraits: Short Films by Marie Losier on Sunday, July 10, at the Velaslavasay Panorama. More info at LAFilmforum.org.