DIRECTOR: Rainer Fassbinder

New German Cinema wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1982 swansong, a fever-dream adaptation of Jean Genet’s classic 1947 novel of existential homoeroticism, stars hairy-chested Brad Davis (Midnight Express) as the titular sailor caught up in dangerous games of sadomasochistic seduction in a French port town teeming with lustful lads and phallic architecture.

Notorious thief, murderer, and prick tease Querelle arrives in Brest and visits the local bar-cum-brothel overseen by Lysaine (French New Wave doyenne Jeanne Moreau), who is shacking up with both her husband, Nono (the smoldering Günther Kaufmann), and her lover Robert, who happens to be the sailor’s brother—such is this pulse-quickening melodrama’s propensity for incestuous coincidence. Dogged by corrupt police chief Mario, hot-and-bothered construction worker Gil (a dead ringer for bro Robert), and smitten shipmate Lieutenant Seblon (Euro film icon Franco Nero), our antihero succumbs to temptation and discovers the thrills and back-alley betrayals of la petite mort.

More than thirty years after its initial release, Querelle remains a singularly sensual work and is now clearly recognized as a hugely influential precursor to the New Queer Cinema movement. Wondrously imaginative in its nonlinear storytelling and spectacular production design, this visionary film—whether seen for the first or tenth time—dazzles as an opium-addled ode to sex, death, and bell-bottoms.

Note: This retrospective screening of Querelle is being shown in conjunction with the new documentary Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands (see page 55), in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Fassbinder’s birth.

— Steven Jenkins

Co-presented by:
Alliance Française de San Francisco
Berlin & Beyond Film Festival

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