Cathrin Schaer, a New Zealand journalist living in Germany, blogs from the 61st Berlin International Film Festival
Nobody at the Berlin film festival really noticed that it was Valentine's Day yesterday. There weren't even any of those guys who sell single roses to random strangers roaming the streets. In fact, it wasn't until the day after that some big love lit up the big screens at one of the world's most important film festivals.
Better late than never, one of the biggest - and possibly weirdest - loves seen onscreen for some time was that of musician and artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Neil Andrew Megson before he changed his name) and partner Lady Jaye (formerly Jacqueline Breyer). The couple met and fell in love when P-Orridge, former singer of legendary experimental noise bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, was bunking down at a friendly dominatrix dungeon - no kidding - in New York.
And you know when you fall in love with someone and you just want to be with them all the time, and you just want to eat them up, to become one person, P-Orridge explains in the documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye by Marie Losier. "Well we wanted to pursue that," he says.
The couple eventually got married. The bride wore a black leather pantsuit and the groom, a white lace dress. And then they decided to take their union step further. Rather than having children - P-Orridge already had two daughters and a vasectomy - the pair decided they would try and become as much like one another as possible.
In fact, they would create an "indivisible third" person, a combination of the two of them that they'd call the "pandrogyne". This project progressed from wearing the same clothes, to the same hair colour and cosmetics, and eventually to plastic surgery.
"In 2003, on Valentine's Day we both got breast implants. We woke up holding hands," P-Orridge narrates over the melange of footage that Losier captured over the space of seven years. "It was a very romantic moment."
It also became a kind of radical art project that the couple wanted to document on film, which is how Losier, a French experimental film maker who met Lady Jaye accidentally when she stepped on her feet at a crowded concert, got involved. Interspersed with intimate scenes out of daily life with the pair and footage of Psychic TV on tour in Europe, Losier also created a series of wonderfully odd tableaus featuring P-Orridge - friends call him "Gen"- complete with paper butterflies and a variety of bizarre costumes. The result is a beautiful, beguiling freaky documentary that is very true to the subjects.
But as Lady Jaye, who sadly died suddenly from a heart condition in 2007, told P-Orridge at one stage, when they were talking about what their epitaphs should say: "I don't care about any of that art sh*t. I just want [this] to remembered as one of the greatest love affairs of all time."
After the screening a tearful P-Orridge joined Losier onstage in Berlin for questions from the audience. P-Orridge calls himself "we" (because it's not gender specific) and since his partner died, he told a mesmerised audience that he has continued with the project they began together - mostly commemorative tattoos but also a breast reduction: "So that my breasts were the same size as hers when she died."
July in March
Also premiering in Berlin today was the second feature film by US artist and director Miranda July. Her first film, You, Me and Everyone We Know, a bittersweet love story that won the Camera d'Or at Cannes, was a favourite of quirky hipsters, indie kids everywhere as well as a whole bunch of 30-somethings who've had trouble "growing up". Same goes for the multi-talented July's short stories, photography and art.
The Future, July's second feature film, is a little bit more bitter than sweet but still speaks to that same group - and maybe to anyone who's ever had trouble getting off Facebook when they're supposed to be doing something else, creative or otherwise. The film is about a couple, Sophie and Jason, who decide to do the right thing by adopting an injured animal. But they worry that once they have a pet that they won't be able to do what they want and that they'll be tied down, so in the month before the pet is due to arrive back from the vet, they plan to quit their unsatisfying jobs and do all the stuff they should have been doing all along. Things get a little surreal with a T-shirt that comes to life and creeps into houses, a talking cat, a chatty moon, a child buried in dirt up to its neck and a form of time travel. And the movie morphs into a charming fable with so many lashings of modern, coffee shop philosophy that your head will be spinning.
Maybe this is why the press conference afterwards was more like a psychotherapy session. The dreamy July, who wrote, directed and starred in the movie, was asked all sorts of deep and meaningfuls. One of the journalists even asked her whether she felt that as human beings, we expected too much from love and relationships. Her reply: "I don't think we do. I think love is pretty important. But I would say that romantic love is pretty different thing, you know, from something like what you'd read about in, say, Room with a View - I loved that book so much!," she exclaimed. "It's another thing, like, oh, religion and actual spirituality. There's, like, enjoyable things to read and look at in religion but it's different from the highs and lows of actually being alive."
And then finally, there is the Czech-Slovakian documentary, Matchmaking Mayor, or Nesvatbov. In this gently humorous film, a local mayor tries to stop his village from dying out by encouraging the various singles in the village to pair up and get frisky. Those singles include 50-somethings who share a bedroom with their mother or, maybe, are short and drink a bit much, then act a little sleazy. But the mayor thinks folks should hook up, so he even arranges a dance and makes the most hilarious announcements on the public broadcast system. "Maybe we can wake up your hormones so you can get together and we can all benefit socially," he says on loudspeakers, a remnant of the Soviet era, strung up all over the town centre. He even invites neighbouring villages to participate. The result is almost as good as Jersey Shore, but without the drinking, swearing or sex - and you do spend the whole time wondering will they, or won't they, get together? Fingers crossed.