Although the sailor Querelle (Brad Davis) is strong, he is also an outcast. The crimes he commits free him, and this freedom gives him power. The sailors on the naval destroyer submit themselves to Querelle’s gradual transformation and give in to his will.
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Bizarrely has the reputation as 'lesser Fassbinder' (too stylized? too sexual? too queer?) but for me its his most ALIVE. A beautiful experience, erotic, melancholy, hilarious. The queers in this film are armed with switchblades, tough, violent, funny and refuse to be labeled, this is a delirious glimpse of what gay film could have been like before it went all bland, inoffensive, domestic and overly corporate.
I haven't read the novel, Querelle yet but I've read other Genet novels and I have to say that of all the movies based on his writing or written by Genet (including the short film Genet himself directed) this movie comes the closest at getting the atmosphere his prose and imagination created.
I realized that when the sight of a 70 year old Jeanne Moreau singing an atrocious song set to Oscar Wilde's words actually provided me with a sense of comfort, I couldn't be converted in spite of Fassbinder's gargantuan efforts. Man, Rainer did not go gently into that good night.
"Querelle had entered into a kind of unspoken pact with the Devil. He had not written over either his body or his soul, but rather something which is just as valuable: a friend. And the death of this friend would sanctify his crime. It is our task to express the universal quality of a specific phenomenon. We are no longer concerned with a work of art – for a work of art is free."
Could have been made for TV, shot in the most brilliant synthetic of fire and ice, a theatrical inundation. Indeed a sadomasochistic endeavor, and a literal jump in the pond for RWF, the sinking. Now please make a proper transfer of "Women in New York," okay? We deserve it. Come on, sailor, touch it.
Somewhat surreal with it's clearly artificial setting, a faux sound stage Brest, strange lighting and eroticised sailors, policemen, and criminals all looking like they've stepped out of a Tom of Finland drawing.
I find it rather suiting that fassbinder ended his career with a movie where the main character is striving for his identity and struggles with emotional strength. It just feels like the right note to end on. Be it that the note is a very erotically surreal note. The only thing that stops me from loving it is the inauthenticity of the dialogue and the lackluster lead performance.
The film stands as an operatic labyrinth of nihilism and discovery, a prophetic externalization of Fassbinder's subjectivity: artist, murderer, lover. Though its breath seems restricted to the air of his work and life, its lungs are vast and loving and revelling at the end of a nightmare. In his own remarks on Querelle: "The ultimate goal of all human endeavor: to live one's own life."