This one took time to slide into partially due to the poor quality of the DVD we had (there’s a new Blu-Ray version which will have to be seen as well) but also due to the stilted nature of the work. I hope some audacious young thing is considering adapting this for the stage as it plays very much like a theatrical production. Plus it would be a welcome antidote to the ongoing Disnification of Broadway productions.
There is nothing remotely “realistic” about Querelle; not the sets, the acting, the story, or the costumes. Even the lighting and set design is highly stylized, communicating more than the dialogue. I personally didn't find Brad Davis in the title role to be all that and so it was mystifying why everyone in the film was so fixated on him but the movie does weave a spell that lingered for days after. Jeanne Moreau was sadly sidelined as Lysiane (as any woman would be in that environment) but still fascinating. Reading more about the source material, Jean Genet’s novel “Querelle of Brest” and about some of Fassbinder’s choices helped clarify some of what felt muddled.
However, as often happens with Fassbinder movies, once I let go of needing it to make sense, I was swept into a charmed and sinister other dimension. I stopped questioning why Querelle did such awful things and fell into the rhythm and sway of the film. Fassbinder has created a fevered world where motivations and consequences stir the surface like slowly moving carp in muddy water. The spell is potent and lasting.