I'm sorely tempted to put: don't watch this movie.
End of review.
But I'm not earning my keep doing that, and besides, there might be someone out there - someone who has to suffer film-studies courses as I once did- who actually wants to watch this movie.
So... the film. The story is of a sailor in a French port, Brad Davis (Midnight Express), who becomes involved in the seedy world of drugs and sex.
The film has a 1930s look to it- almost black and white and grainy, and it appears to be a theatre set, rather than an actual film. Perhaps the director, Fassbinder, was trying to say that all of life is merely a stage and we are actors, strutting our... yeah.... It looks dreadful, and if you survive through to the end, you deserve a medal.
If you have to watch this film, then there are some lovely, cringingly awful things to look out for. Don't miss the Village People-reject costumes. Seriously, you've got them all: policeman in cut-away leather chaps; sailors in tight, white, see-through trousers.
Gay sex? Hmm. If you are balancing on that difficult decision... gay?... het?... you know the one... this film will plonk you firmly on the side of being het. You really don't want to go there.
I take it back... do see this movie. You need something to give you a marker... something you can use to say: this far and no further.
Boring and pretentious,
incomprehensible rubbish. Right, that's that, then. I'm done.
You want details?
Okay, if I must. I'll relive the sleep inducing experience of watching this complete turkey….so you lucky people don't have to.
Apparently based on writings by Jean Genet, the plot (what plot?) is confusing and clunky. Presumably the odd text excerpts scattered apparently randomly (well, I couldn't see any correlation) throughout come from his work. There's a dull and obtrusive narrative voice, again I presume taken from Genet's original. If I cared I'd check these details. Presumably these devices were intended to compensate for the muddled plot. It doesn't help.
Querelle, a French sailor, is played sullen and wooden by Brad Davis in what must've been a career destroying move following his success in "Midnight Express". He arrives in the port of Brest where he visits a bar-brothel. His brother Robert is the lover of a whore, Lysiane, a miscast Jeanne Moreau. Is it revenge for some wrong between the brothers? Or is there some point trying to emerge here that it's socially acceptable for men to want to shag women, yet something dirty and shameful if it's two men with the same desire? Goodness knows. They have a game to amuse themselves in this seedy bar. You toss the dice with brutish husband, Nono. Winners get Lysiane. Losers have to make do with Nono. Yup. You're ahead of me. Querelle loses…deliberately? Surely not…Nono is a sadistic bastard. The resulting sex scene, like the rest in the film, is nasty and brutal. Not to be savoured. Yet Querelle gets a taste for it. Throughout the film desire is mixed up with violence. Querelle murders a sailor and it's an open homosexual who gets framed for it because he did kill another man. For some reason I can't be bothered to contemplate I think he's played by the actor who is Robert. Predictably Querelle then gets the hots for this wronged man…or is it his look-alike brother again he actually desires? Sigh. Ho hum. There's a tormented Lieutenant, played by trash stalwart Franco Nero, prone to deep and meaningful thoughts spoken to camera while casting lustful glances at Querelle and his fellow half-naked, sweaty sailors. The theme, such as it is, is hammered home in a heavy-handed way by having Lysiane sing, "Each man kills the thing he loves"…over…and over.. The characters view sex in the same way as violence and rage. Linked as it is to homosexuality you have to wonder what the film is trying to say. The whole thing is bathed in surrealistic colour and the sets so obvious the theatricality has to be deliberate, playing up the melodrama and hammy acting. There are weird anachronisms too. I got so bored by it all a highlight moment was a flash of a statue (or maybe part of a wall) that's a fully erect penis and set of balls, something real amidst the stylised artifice. Would acclaimed director Werner Fassbinder really have wanted this as his swan song? I think not.
Do yourself a favour and give this one a miss…check out one of the others on our list instead…unless you've got masochistic leanings or you're a real movie buff.
A strong contender for any list of Worst Films Ever.
Buy It Here From Amazon - Region 2 (UK/Europe)
here from Amazon.com (region 1)
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