querelleThe first time I saw Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final film Querelle, I was enamored with the raw sexuality of it. Raw is an understatement. Although not pornographic by any standards, for a feature film Querelle continues to set the standard for in your face M/M sex. Adapted from the Jean Genet novel Querelle de Brest, Fassbinder takes us on a surreal journey – a tale of a sailor named Querelle, a thief and a murderer. Fassbinder uses Genet’s sandbox to weave a bizarre story of Querelle discovering he likes gay sex, falling in love with a man, hating other men, betraying the man he loves. More than sexuality, I witnessed themes of sexual identity in Querelle. He didn’t want to kiss another man, he didn’t like queens, he was still a man even after passive sex with Nono. To me Querelle is the other side  of the stereotype spectrum to the silly, sexless queen we see so often in earlier films. Querelle is masculine, manipulative, predatory, narcissistic – a sociopath. The film is shot in a dreamlike trance with color and a set worthy of an opera. The dialogue is delivered in monotone with slight pauses between each character’s reply. It feels like you’re in a world where everyone has ADHD. The cast consists of Brad Davis, Franco Nero, Jeanne Moreau, Laurent Malet, Hanno Pöschl and it’s fun even after 35 years hearing them say things like prick and ass fucking. Even a man grabbing his crotch still seems out of the ordinary for a feature film. I can’t say I loved Querelle. I appreciate it. I felt Fassbinder’s cocaine high while watching the film. It’s a mess in certain places, alright a lot of places but experimental and revolutionary throughout. Such a mixed bag as if he was trying to cram too much into one movie, even mixing ideas from 70’s leather culture into the character’s psyche. Bizarre and titillating. The sets are something a designer dreams of creating once in a lifetime. It certainly doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test as Jeanne Moreau is the only woman in the cast. But through it all, it’s Genet, it’s Fassbinder, it’s light years ahead of its time rough trade love. 3 out of 5 for the uneven but shockingly fun Querelle.

Check out the Fassbinder Foundation.
Peruse the Fassbinder bibliography at UC Berkeley.
See Reel Charlie’s posts on Rainer Warner Fassbinder.

The posters for the film were just as provocative as the film itself. Check out the Brick Dick poster as well as the Warhol Lick poster below.

querelle brick dick poster

querelle warhol


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