Tuesday, May 08, 2007
And the winner is...: Fassbinder's "Querelle"
Some images from "Querelle", the last ever Fassbinder film based on the Genet novel. Brad Davies is the thoughful, cunning and beautiful sailor thrown into the dubious and highly artificial world of the mythical harbour of Brest, complete with phallic sea towers, claustrophobic back allies and a louche brothel where his brother resides and the fab, though slightly tragic madame Jeanne Moreau overlooks the scene. Franco Nero is his superior on ship and secretly in love with him. I could go on. I've seen this film at least 30 times. It's exerted such a strong and curious fascination over me in my younger years I simply had to see it everytime it was shown in a cinema. Fassbinder himself stated that it was made purely for the cinema where the beautiful, almost psychedelic orange and blue lighting, the heavy camp music and the overwhelmimg stench of sexuality overhanging every scene becomes much more powerful. When I lived in Berlin in the mid 80s "Querelle" was one of those films that kept sticking around, and was always shown from time to time in the run down art cinemas around there. I saw it in Paris once. I own it on DVD now and I still watch it from time to time. I know it by heart. Though I still don't really "understand" it. It's one of those things that could not work and maybe doesn't work for everyone anyway but the combination of Fassbinders special tone, the beautiful claustrophobia of the studio transformed into a highly stylised harbour, and Genets mythical tale involving two doomed brothers is such a heady mix I fall for it everytime. It is such a beautiful ...accident. The late Andy Warhol visited the set and apparently said he felt hot for the whole day afterwards and Fassbinder wanted that quote printed on adverts for the film.
My old mate Simon has tagged me to list my favourite ten movies so here they are:
1 "Querelle" Fassbinder: see above
2 "The Big Lebowski" Cohen Brothers: What a weird plot, and what a dubious list of characters. Yet everytime we watch it we notice something different. Absolutely wonderful writing, so funny and so philosophical at the same time. No wonder there is a whole festival devoted to the film now. Fxxx it, let's go bowling. Well, the dude has become somewhat of a role model to me, despite all the good warnings written into the plot, haha...
3 "Blow Up" Antonioni: I saw this film countless times on German TV when I grew up and from an early age, i.e. when i couldn't possibly have understood everything. There's something in the half light of that park that becomes the murder scene that's become a blueprint for trying to see more in any given situation, a special quality of light that makes you suspect there's more... out there. All the swinging London stuff is so cool too. Sometimes when I walk through London I can still feel a bit of that lingering around, and the film helped made it visible and meorable.
4 "Rosemary's Baby" Polanski. Same as "Blow Up", a staple on German TV when I grew up. I love Polanski, see also "The Tenant", "Fearless Vampire Killers", "Frantic", "Bitter Moon", love them all. One thing I found out after repeated viewing is, uh, I was born on the very same day that the baby is due in the film. Now that is purely a coincidence, ok? but it's true...
5 "Polyester" John Waters: That's my favourite Waters movie, the perfect balance between his more shocking in yer face grossout earlier movies and his slightly more streamlined later black comedies. It's just very powerful and explosive and funny throughout. I remember seeing it with the infamous scratch cards at a Waters movie night in a cinema in Berlin in the early 80s. Then we got it in the sales on VHS about ten years ago and it quickly became one of my favourite videos. Love it!
6 "Spirited Away" Miyazaki: This started my occasional interest in Japanese animation though I haven't seen anything yet that comes quite close to it. Well, ok, maybe "Grave of the Fireflies". The whole look of the film, the story, the atmosphere of it was such an eye opener when i first saw it. Just goes to show what you can still do with animation.
7 "Lost Highway" David Lynch: I can see what people criticize about films like these. To me it was never that unclear. Or indulgent. It's elegant, stylish, hypnotic and utterly entrancing stuff, down to the more-goth-than-usual soundtrack. I used to watch it all the time. It never gets boring somehow. I think Lynch made a statement with this film though they are all statements on each other, constantly refer to each other. Of his post Twin Peaks film I really liked "Inland Empire", and "Mulholland Drive" too of course, but LH has a special appeal to me.
8 "The Garden" Derek Jarman: We were in Derek Jarmans garden on the shingle beach in barren, eerie and fascinating Dungeness for the second time recently, I think I'm going to post some photos soon. This film is an ode to it, among other things, it's abstract and pretty apocalyptic, if not chaotic, but to me there is hope and an aura of light too. Just like the place. I need to see it again actually.
9 "Prosperos Books" Peter Greenaway: To my mind the most extreme and absorbing of all Greenaways films, at least visually. Weird how noone talks about him anymore, for a while in the 80s he really ruled.
10 "Hustler White" Bruce LaBruce: What a trip! Bruce goes to LA to check out the hustler scene and eventually falls for a pretty hustler himself. Ironic, shocking, and swinging from one sexually adventurous scene to another, it's a heady ride...