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The Rewind Movie Podcast

Querelle (1982) - Episode 102

Season 5

The thought of murder often evokes thoughts of the sea, and of sailors. Our latest episode takes a sharp tonal shift into the tail end of Germany’s influential Neuer Deutscher Film movement with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s sultry, sweaty 1982 swansong Querelle.


As the Navy ship Le Vengeur arrives into the docks of the town of Brest, the strapping young men of the crew turn their attentions to the unusual brothel tavern La Feria - home to sad-eyed Madame Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau), her burly husband Nono (Günther Kaufmann), and her mustachioed lover Robert (Hanno Pöschl). Into this heady equation saunters the handsome sailor Querelle (Brad Davis) - Robert’s brother - in town to execute an opium deal. Querelle catches the eye of Nono almost immediately, and rolls a game of dice with him to determine if he will get to sleep with Lysiane, or whether Nono will get to have sex with him. This precipitates a heady tale of murder, rivalry, lust and madness, played out under the constant sickly haze of an eternal sunset.


Based on a novel written mostly in prison in the waning days of the Second World War by the influential Jean Genet, this stagebound adaptation takes place in a tightly constructed set, as Fassbinder layers the stately-paced action with layers of narration that hew closely to the dense, poetic, metaphysical phrasing of the author. An intense exploration of the nature of masculinity and its intersection with homosexuality, it’s an unlikely discussion for our panel, but was chosen by Patrick after an illuminating early brush with the film while a visiting student at Prague’s prestigious FAMU some 15 years ago. First-time viewers Gali, Devlin and Matt join him in diving into this difficult, opaque feature from one of European cinema’s most prolific proponents, as we each discuss our attachments to arthouse cinema, and whether the film set sail into our imaginations, or if were sunk by the anchor of its intellectual weight.


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