Querelle (1982) [LA&M Film Fetish Forum]

Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s adaptation of “Querelle” is a divisive movie and has been for a long time. It’s a movie that originally split some critics and journalists, as it’s a movie that’s been explained as a film you’d have to be almost exclusively gay to watch. That’s not a criticism or chastising, but the popular opinion I’ve read seems to indicate that it’s mostly clicked with gay audiences. “Querelle” is very much tailored to gay audiences, as it’s a movie about self discovery and main character Querelle searching for a sense of identity.

A handsome Belgian sailor named Querelle on shore leave in the port of Brest, who is also a drug-smuggler and murderer, embarks upon a voyage of highly charged and violent homosexual self-discovery that will change him forever from the man he once was. Rainer Werner Fassbinder doesn’t ignore any of the overt gay themes, bringing Querelle and his fellow sailors to a small village draped almost exclusively in phallic symbols. There are back alleys and small paths obviously symbolic of anal sex, all the characters are exclusively gay save for one woman. The movie also never shies away from the depiction of anal sex, prompting a lot of encounters with Querelle who confronts gay men that are eager to have a sexual encounter.

He views their advances and the act of anal sex as a mundane property he repeats based on the fact that it feels good for him, and nothing more. There are even representations of sub-cultures like Leather Daddies, Bears, Twinks, and the like, all of whom play a surprising importance in Querelle’s progression as a character. Director Werner Fassbinder is blatant about his themes turning Querelle’s residence in this village as a sexual realization, as well as a self realization when he pursues crime. I have to say I didn’t quite click with the movie, despite my best efforts to sit through it. Star Brad Davis is fine in the role, but “Querelle” is something of a chore to endure with long stretches of tedious dialogue and soliloquies. There’s even a minimalist back drop that looks like a stage set up.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder tries to evoke the sense of surrealism and a dream like haze which our character Querelle is entrenched in, but the movie feels hollow and rambling too often. There are just so many drawn out sequences of asides from characters that reflect on life and desire and sex; after the first hour I was about ready for it to come to a close. Maybe one has to be more familiar with the output from director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but “Querelle” left me generally indifferent and ready to move on to the next.

Playing at the LA&M Film Fetish Forum June 17th, at 7pm; Co-Presented by the Foul Monkeys Podcast.