This is a film I had been meaning to see for a long time and wish I had not left it so long. It stars sultry, hunk, Brad Davis (`Midnight Express' and `Chariots of Fire') as the title character Querelle. He is a gay, sailor who arrives in the French port of Brest to do a drug deal whilst opportunistically being on shore and some random violence and sex if he feels like it and oh yes he does. He is also the object of unrequited love of the ships Lieutenant Seblon (Franco Nero who's had an amazing career just made `Django Unchained' and was in the original `Django' in 1966) who lustily watches his underling whilst recording his feelings on a Dictaphone.
All the action in the town seems to centre on a bar/brothel where the `host' Nono throws dice to see who gets to `have' whom. If he wins you are basically going to be on the receiving end of some pretty big man `bear' type action. Also Nono's wife is having an open liaison with Querelles' brother and on meeting it is clear they have a love / hate relationship which seems to centre around some sort of physical attraction. Things happen at a poetic pace that is almost surreal at times and this is all absolutely intentional as it builds to an ending that is written big, from the start, that will be tragic.
This is an adaptation of Jean Genet's book and as such was always going to be difficult to adapt, but if anyone could then it has to be the director here Rainer Werner Fassbinder(`The Marriage of Maria Braun' and `The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant'). This was Fassbinder's last film in what had been both a productive and illuminating career; sadly he died of an overdose of cocaine at the age of 37. He wanted to capture the mood of the book and so deliberately filmed everything on a studio set, at some cost, so as to be able to have the surreal orange sky and clearly painted sun in some of the more iconic shots.
Nearly every scene has some homo erotic element to it. The sailors all walk around looking like refugees from a Jean Paul-Gautier advert and quotes from the book are interspersed through-out to help uncover the character which is too complex to be adequately conveyed in the normal restrictions of a two dimensional film. The language is deliberately provocative and infused with sexual meaning as in the real intention of the `f' word. There is also tension through-out along with stylised violence and the use of fetish clothing to make the film feel even more unreal and removed from the ordinary. Even the cop is in a leather biker outfit; wish it was like that in real life, the arrest rates might go up a bit though. And the lighting is stupendous, this has been lit like a noir classic in places, couple this with the lingering sultry shots of Querelle looking both languorous and sexy just by standing there and the effect is one that is both intriguing and almost beguiling.
I watched this almost totally rapt at what it was supposed to be and what I thought a film should be but this was not complying to the norms. So I took a while to think of what I really had seen and it is so obvious that a director like this comes along so rarely that when you get the chance to see his work you realise that this is indeed something special.
on April 9, 2004
An ambitious and original movie, Rainer Werner Fassbider`s "Querelle" is an interesting effort with some compelling moments but ends up being too flawed as a whole. This experimental release presents a surreal and dreamy mood that showcases Querelle`s (a marine played by Brad Davis) search for himself and his true nature. His search will lead to some risky relationships with a couple of his mates, presenting a movie that combines campy moments with some introspective and symbolic ones. What we have here is a film that explores human desire, narcisism, homo(sexuality) and seduction in an unique and peculiar way, even if the characters are too self-absorbed and the plot drags in many scenes. "Querelle" is too ambiguous and ethereal to deliver a convincing resolution, even if it delivers an unusual dark atmosphere with compelling settings and brilliant direction (the photography is also good, displaying excellent colours and textures). The acting is not very intriguing and the weird characters turn this into an unusual yet cold cinematic experience. Fassbinder presents some good ideas here, still this effort is to sparse and disjointed to become a solid movie.
Not bad, just too uneven to convince.
on July 12, 2003
This movie truly made me rethink my pompous blow-hard nature: that is to say, I'm fanatical about Jean Genet, madly in love with Brad Davis, and I even MOSTLY like Fassbinder. But for some reason, I can never seem to get through the first half of this movie.
Jean Genet's forbidden story of Querelle was, simply put, never meant to be translated into a movie. The internal struggles of Querelle were too innate, too complex...to ever be categorized and flow-charted and minced down into two hours of a panel-by-panel film script.
Now, with that said, I think Fassbinder made an excellent attempt to put you right up inside the taboo story of our favorite murderer/hero. The scenery is luscious, the costumry finely detailed, the casting superb. Not to mention the delicious sailor booty of a certain leading man, Brad Davis.
Still, I find this movie left me with much to be desired. After the torrid affair of Querelle and Nono, I wanted to roll over and go to sleep (no underlying meaning meant). Even THEN, there was only so much tension up until that point, and the plot manuevering that Fassbinder undertook did nothing to appease me. For example, the lusty leiutenant who writes of Querelle in the novel, keeps, instead, a tape recorded diary. With any horribly tedious passages taken directly from the text. In terribly stiff monologues.
All in all, I rated this movie with four of five stars. It perfectly compliments any Genet collection and makes for wonderful ornamentation on your DVD shelves. But if you've never heard of Jean Genet or never saw a Fassbinder movie, you should probably buy a different homoerotic brothel-lined story of metamorphoses and love.
on December 16, 2001
I bought the dubbed version of this movie, but, had seen it first with subtitles. The dubbed version is by far the best. As you miss so much trying to read the captions.
This was close if not the last movie Brad Davis made before he died of aids. Being shunned by producers here in the U.S. He went to Europe to work and lucky for us he did.
Querelle,(Brad Davis) Is anchored on a merchant ship in Brest,France. He enters a brothel, to find his brother wrapped around the owner, Jeanne Moreau(Lysiane) And finds out about his homosexuality thru the toss of the dice.
This is not a gay thing, but, rather a discourse on homosexualism. Querelle, does not believe in two men loving each other , but, two men can enjoy each other and why-not indulge your sexual desires to the max..After loosing the toss-of-the-dice, he tells Gunther, 'we will not Kiss' and Gunther replies, "that goes without saying".
Ms. Moreau is stunning and puts out a song that is haunting, and tells of Querelles love for his brother, might be more than brotherly love!!
I found this movie to be very intriguing, and found myself trying to catch all the phallic symbolism on the etched window panes and the writting on the walls of the local W.C.
Franco Nero, plays the Lietenent who is much enamored with Querelle and tapes his longings for him.. This is a must see for those who can cope with the amoral,decadence and troubled mind of Jean Genet and Fassbinder; and can cope with homosexuality, explicit. I give this film a **** stars rating.this is the vhs version-dubbed ciao yaaah69
on August 27, 2001
Films are a lot like wine. Some become finer with age, others simply go flat. "Querelle" has neither improved nor deteriorated since it first made the rounds of U. S. arthouses back in the early 1980's. It was potent rotgut then, and it's still potent rotgut twenty years later ... okay for a quick buzz, but ultimately an unsatisfying selection that may not settle well. The film's appeal lies within the main ingredients that promise a flavorful mix: source material by Jean Genet; direction by maverick German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder; and star performances from an impressive international cast headed by Franco Nero, Jeanne Moreau, and (especially) gay icon Brad Davis who is cast as the overtly homosexual title character. Unfortunately, the final product is contaminated by some unneeded artificial flavors and colors, specifically: preachy and pretentious narrative interruptions; some disconcertingly choreographed sequences that would more properly belong in a stylized musical romp rather than a dramatic character study; and an incoherent script that diverts the core of the movie away from plot and character development and allows the director to indulge in too much visual grandstanding (the phallus-shaped turrets, the coital etchings in the tavern glass, etc., etc.). Some of these minor elements might have blended well if they had been added in balanced proportions, but the haphazard recipe followed resulted in a bitter mess that is sure to leave many connoisseurs with an unpleasant aftertaste and a queasy stomach. If you're still determined to sample this unusual concoction, may I recommend the DVD? The contents may be flawed, but the packaging is outstanding, and the film is presented with great style. This is one film that requires a wide-screen viewing; otherwise, you'll be left wondering if something you missed over on the side might have been a key to understanding and appreciating the whole experience. (No.) And just remember afterwards, when your head is spinning and you're wondering why, oh why, you indulged ... you were warned!
on August 17, 2001
Wow--what a film for a director's swan song! I've watched it twice and I'm still stunned--not positive if it's drama, comedy, soft porn, a combination of all three?? One thing I feel sure about--it's obvious that Fassbinder doesn't mean his audience to take the film completely seriously (See his 1971 release "Beware of a Holy Whore" and you'll know what I mean) as he still gives audiences his Douglas Sirk-colored view of the world--irony and HEAVY melodrama. With the film's narrator's comments, the "stagey" look and humor, the film almost feels like glossy high camp, and the director's use of "distancing" techniques to keep audience involvement at bay (excerpts from chapters of Genet's story, I assume) keep us from getting too involved, presumably to get us into this critical mode of looking AT the film (instead of getting "swept away" by it) and what it says about human desire and folly, among other things. Jeanne Moreau is fantastic (as always) and Franco Nero is as wonderful a picture of male beauty as you'll ever get, but Brad Davis's performance seems curiously wooden and unexpressive. Still, it's fun to watch and great to have among my Fassbinder collection. If you watch this film, prepare for something....well....just downright strange!
on July 13, 2001
...and it only gets more confusing after that. 'Querelle' is a difficult movie to follow. I've watched it quite a few times and I end up with something new after each viewing. Querelle (Brad Davis in a way-too-tight sailor uniform) appears to be just another resident meanie in the port of Brest. OK, a very sexually-repressed meanie. He hasn't come to the realization that he just wants to be loved. How he comes to that realization is the plot of the movie (...or is it?). Along the way, Querelle murders, fondles a cop, smuggles drugs and flirts with his commanding officer.
The movie is an eerie, voyeuristic experience painted in sepia tones. Although Querelle participates is numerous kinky episodes, there is nothing pornographic here in the sense of flailing flesh and hungry moans (lots of sweaty sailors, though) and everything that happens moves the plot along.
The DVD is a welcome change from the Columbia and EDDE edition VHS tapes (but I would rather have the original Columbia VHS artwork instead of the big "Q" here). The print is anamorphic (2.35:1) and of a pretty good quality for 1982. I did notice a few frame shakes here and there but nothing too jarring. You also get the original English mono track and an alternate French track. There's no trailer included for this movie but there's a couple of other unrelated ones.
So sit back and prepare to scratch your head and say "What the..." Querelle is definately not a disappointing flick.
on April 4, 2002
Brad Davis is captivating as the sailor boy prostitute "Querelle" desired by men and women alike in this odd, yet gentle masterpiece. Clearly not for all audiences, the movie is dark and often harrowing, at times recalling other classic Genet adaptations, and occassionally, even the legendary "Midnight Express" which made Davis a star. Like the latter film, there are moments here that shock the viewer into action, perhaps fewer than necessary, and yet always mezmerizing and accomplished. Steeped in an aura of bright, almost unimaginable color, "Querelle" is one of those gay-cinema classics that deserves a place in an adult video collection (like "Taxi Zum Klo" for example.) Yet remember - this is a harrowing vision, and clearly not for every member of the family. Still, Davis is superb!
on August 6, 2002
First of all when you get the DVD version, you have the opportunity to watch the film as it was originally filmed - in English. Anyone who speaks French and can read lips knows that the film was dubbed into French (and not just bad sync-sound) - the film was later released back in the states with English subtitles under the French dub (talk about a triple threat).
I must say that I love this movie for tackling issues that 20 years ago were definitely still taboo in the mainstream. Although not a masterpiece in terms of plot development, I believe it stays true to the development of Jean Genet's characters - and of course the cinematography is stunning. Like watching a live action Tom of Finland cartoon directed by David Lynch at times... Wonderful.
on July 15, 2001
What a shame that the distributors are so cynical to release this great film under such poor conditions. The subtle oranges and pinks have been thrown together by a quick and presumably cheap transfer to DVD that they all now merge into some garish red. It's almost unwatchable compared to the VHS copy I own. I thought DVD was supposed to be the ultimate in picture quality... forget it, don't be conned. It's just another way to get us to buy the things we've already got. One more thing: get this - they say that, as a special feature of the DVD, it comes with theatrical trailers - THE TRAILERS ARE FOR OTHER FILMS! AAuuughghghhh!What a [bad deal]... keep your money... you have been warned.
The people who released this DVD should be in jail.