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Querelle
aka - Querelle - Ein Pakt Mit Dem Teufel
Germany 1982
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Running time 104 minutes
Rated R
2.5 stars


Described in the opening credits as a film “about” Jean Genet’s Querelle de Brest, and dedicated to the director's former Arab lover, El Hedi Ben Salem, who had recently committed suicide, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's final film (he died from a drug overdose suicide in June 1982) is very much of its time and even more circumscribed by its subject matter, which is to put it broadly, sado-masochistic male homosexuality. Fassbinder gives Genet’s novel about the titular sailor (Brad Davis, best known as the one-hit star of Alan Parker’s 1978 Midnight Express) and his descent into Hell a suitably theatrical, multi-voiced treatment, mixing lurid visuals with lurid words, sometimes spoken by the actors, sometimes by a narrator (Franco Nero), interspersed with inter-titles quoting from Genet’s text in a highly-stylized, dream-like setting. Aside from its formal brilliance, the wider appeal of Genet’s writing is its appeal to legitimise the darker side of the human soul, an idea with which of course Fassbinder was very much in sympathy. This is, unsurprisingly, not a notion with which a lot of viewers are going to be comfortable and even those who are, are likely to find difficulty in sustaining interest in the director’s attempts, which includes a dessicated Jeanne Moreau singing Every Man Kills The Thing He Loves (w. Oscar Wilde, m. Peer Rabin), to give it cinematic form (it was his first film in a wide-screen format) unless they themselves share his very specific world-view and values. BH

BTW: Selected in competition at the 1982 Venice Film Festival, the Golden Lion went to 'Wim Wender' s Der Stand der Dinge / The State Of Things )  prompting jury President Marcel Carné to declare that " ... I would love to express my disappointment in not having been able to convince my colleagues to place R.W. Fassbinder's "Querelle" among the winners. As a matter of fact, I've found myself alone in defending the movie. Nevertheless, I keep on thinking that, although controversial, R.W. Fassbinder's final movie, want it or not, love it or hate it, will one day find its place in the history of cinema".

DVD Extras: None

 

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