mo_no_chrome (mo_no_chrome) wrote,

Rainer Werner Fassbinder - Querelle (1982)

Fassbinder's Querelle is a film I'd been meaning to watch for a long time. It left me, however, vaguely disappointed. It's a gorgeous film, resplendent in dark smouldering colours, shot entirely on evocative sets with heavy-handedly metaphorical scenery. The music is also well done, with classical themes both accompanying and contrasting the stylised, dark and violent action; as well as Madame Lysiane's (an excellent Jeanne Moreau) Piaf-esque musical version of Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol, a haunting refrain which accompanies us throughout the film.

However, one is left asking what this book adds to Genet's masterful, erotic and bewildering Querelle de Brest (it is specifically noted that this is a film about Genet's novel, but for all intents and purposes it is an adaptation). Brad David is certainly attractive as Querelle; but to my mind he loses Querelle's vulnerability, and this could be a metaphor for the work overall. The strong presence of the abject in Genet's novel, of shit and stench and dirt, is transmuted into a Pierre et Giles vision in which dirt is only present when it highlights perfection. Genet's stylised dialogue sits oddly in (this) film, as do the highly stylised ritual fight scenes which stray into absurdity. Genet's heady fusion of the emotional, the erotic, the intellectual, the abject, of the slums and the ivory towers, becomes awkward; while any rendering of his unreliable and ever-shifting authorial voice, always a hallmark of his work, is not attempted. The decision to insert slabs of text between scenes (not, it should be added in fairness, in any way intended to further the plot) seems already an admission of failure to fully translate the work into its new medium.

Overall, then, I would class this work a failure, in that it transmutes Genet's complex work into little more than a piece of homoerotic kitsch; nonetheless, an interesting failure, when considered as a piece of more than usually complex, and visually arresting camp kitsch.

x-posted to cult_movie
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