Category Archives: Gay Cinema
Since making his debut with 1991’s No Skin Off My Ass, Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has challenged audiences with his startling, sexually explicit films whose subject matter has included amputee sex, hardcore porn, gang-rape, castration and racially-motivated violence. Following 2013’s Gerontophilia, however, LaBruce changed direction, eschewing the extreme for a more meditative approach to his ongoing fascination with sexual taboos.
With Saint-Narcisse, he has crafted his most accomplished piece of transgressive cinema to date. Nominated for the Queer Lion award at Venice Film Festival, this anarchic love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers looks certain to mark a turning point for queer cinema’s former enfant terrible. But never fear; he still has a few shocks in store – this time, its twincest.
Félix-Antoine Duval stars as 22-year-old Dominic, a sexually-adventurous young man in love with his reflection but doesn’t really know himself fully. Finding some unopened letters in his grandmothers’ closet, he discovers a family secret: his mother Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni) didn’t die in childbirth. Determined to uncover the truth, Dominic heads to the parish town of Saint-Narcisse, north of Montreal, where he is shocked to find a tombstone inscribed with his name and date of death in a local graveyard.
Finally tracking down his mother (who the locals have labelled a witch), he discovers she’s a lesbian who was excommunicated by the church and was led to believe Dominic was stillborn. Now she lives in exile in a cabin in the woods with Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), her late lover’s daughter. But Dominic also learns he has a twin. Sequestered in a remote monastery since birth, Daniel is being raised and groomed by a priest, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who believes he is the reincarnation of Saint Sebastian.
Whether dressed in leathers and sporting stubble or naked and shaved, Duval has the look of the divine about him, and his sex scenes (with himself) are both erotic and very tender indeed. It takes a good hour before the twins meet, but LaBruce uses that time to develop the narrative and his characters fully. Setting the film in 1972 also allows him to explore critical issues, such as children being taken away from their mothers (who happen to be lesbian or even just unmarried) and priests preying on the young men in their care.
I won’t reveal what happens, but LaBruce comes up trumps with a scene involving a St Andrew’s Cross, communion wafers, a wedding dress and some Caravaggio-inspired lighting that will stay with you long after the ending.
Kudos go to Andreas Apergis (who appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the US version of Being Human) as the film’s villain, the depraved Father Andrew. If his scary eyes don’t creep you out, his toe licking of the equally scary-eyed Saint Sebastian statue will. Oh, and that scene with the (very fit) monks skinny-dipping is gloriously gratuitous.
Saint-Narcisse will be released theatrically in the UK on 22 April
with a DVD and digital release from Peccadillo Pictures on 2 May 2022
Night Tide | Curtis Harrington’s cult fantasy feature debut and eight rarely-seen experimental shorts get a luminous UK release on Blu-ray
Presented by Nicolas Winding Refn in a new 4K restoration, Curtis Harrington’s 1961 fantasy thriller Night Tide is an offbeat classic of American independent cinema, and it makes its UK Blu-ray debut with this must-have box-set from Powerhouse Films.
Night Tide sees Dennis Hopper (in his first starring role) playing a sailor on shore leave in San Diego, where he meets a young woman called Mora (Linda Lawson) who not only works in a sideshow as a mermaid, but actually believes she is one of the mythical Sirens, who lure young men to their deaths…
A dream-like fusion of arthouse, expressionism and the surreal, dominated by high-contrast lighting and deep shadows, Harrington’s first feature pays homage Val Lewton (one of Harrington’s heroes) and his classic 1942 chiller Cat People – and cements the young film-maker’s poetic cinematic vision that was born out of his earlier experimental shorts. This new restoration is simply luminous and one that I can happily watch over and over again.
Exclusive to this two-disc region free set is a bonus Blu-ray devoted to eight of Harrington’s short films. Previously released by Flicker Alley and Drag City in the US following painstaking restoration by the Academy Film Archive (that was carried out between 2003 and 2007 – the year of Harrington’s death, aged 80), these shorts (also making their UK Blu-ray debut) are a key insight into Harrington’s development as a film-maker…
The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins): Inspired to become a film-maker after reading Paul Rotha’s The Film Till Now: A Survey of World Cinema, Harrington was just 16 when he crafted this hallucingenic and campy homemade short in which he plays both Roderick and Madeline Usher. It might be very low budget is bursting with style that would later inform his cinematic vision.
Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins): This ‘examination of youthful narcissism’ was heavily influenced by Maya Deren’s influential Meshes of the Afternoon and is very much a companion piece to Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks in its exploration of homosexuality. In fact, when the two friends first screened their ‘erotic dream pieces’ to an LA art group, they were deemed ‘very sick boys’. Good on them!
Picnic (1948, 23 mins): Harrington persuaded his own parents to star in this ‘satire of middle-class life’, in which an angry young man chases false love and desires to escape authoritive control. Acclaimed French director and film critic Jacques Rivette praised the film’s poetic expression.
On the Edge (1949, 6 mins): Surrealism comes to the fore in this powerful short about youthful dissatisfaction and human frailty, which uses the wild and desolate landscape of Salton Sea (near Brawley, California) to great effect.
The Assignation (1953, 8 mins): In this love letter to Venice and in his first short in colour that was long deemed lost until it was rediscovered in the vaults of the Cinematheque Française, Harrington explores themes of ‘fleeting human connection’ while also showcasing the city’s brooding architecture.
The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins): This is my personal favourite and comes with a very interesting history. Entranced by the LA artist Marjorie Cameron, a magnetic and alluring woman whom he had met while appearing in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and who makes a witchy cameo in Night Tide, Harrington crafted this arty occult short to ‘present Cameron/the artist as alchemist who, through her creative work, becomes herself transmuted into gold’.
Very much part of the occult milieu of Southern California at the time, Cameron was a unique and troubled soul whose lovers included rocket scientist and Aleister Crowley follower Jack Parsons (who developed a belief system that was later appropriated by Ron L Hubbard — guess what that was?) and psychedelic artist Burt Shonberg (who was commissioned to create the ancestor paintings in Roger Corman’s House of Usher). Cameron later burned most of the pieces that appear in the short (which was filmed in the home of surrealist collector Edward James), so this is only record of her unique artistry.
The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins): Commissioned by the United States Information Agency, Harrington was tasked to make this propaganda film to show off the might of American industry. He does so, but with his distinctive flair. Following this short, Harrington went on to craft a host of psychological thrillers like Games (1967) and Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) that have now attracted cult status, and TV movies like Cat Creature (1973) and Killer Bees (1974), then ended up helming episodes of the biggest and campest soaps of the 19870s, Dynasty and The Colbys.
Usher (2002, 37 mins): This final inclusion sees Harrington return to what made him become a film-maker in the first place: ‘the art of it’. Filmed at his home with a crew made up of friends (and Church of Satan members, Nikolas and Zeena Schreck), its an atmospheric and humourous take on the same Poe tale that began his cinematic journey.
This box-set is currently my No.1 home entertainment release of 2020, and could only be bettered by seeing all of Harrington’s features and TV movies in another box-set or two. In the meantime, here are the complete specs on Powerhouse/Indictator’s fabulous release.
DISC ONE: NIGHT TIDE
• New 4K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary (from 1998) with writer-director Curtis Harrington and actor Dennis Hopper (This is a must-listen and very informative on the making of the film – also a piece of cinema history as both of them are no longer with us)
• New audio commentary with writer and film programmer Tony Rayns (excellent as always)
• Harrington on Harrington (2018, 25 mins): wide-ranging archival interview with the filmmaker
• The Sinister Image: Curtis Harrington (1987, 57 mins): two episodes from David Del Valle’s public access series devoted to cult cinematic figures (It was fantastic to finally see this)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
• New and improved English subtitles
DISC TWO: DREAM LOGIC – THE SHORT FILMS OF CURTIS HARRINGTON
• High Definition remasters
• Original mono audio
• Eight short films: The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins); Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins); Picnic (1948, 23 mins); On the Edge (1949, 6 mins); The Assignation (1953, 8 mins); The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins); The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins); Usher (2002, 37 mins)
• Image gallery: production photography and a rare selection from Harrington’s personal collection
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• 80-page collector’s book featuring new writing on Night Tide by Paul Duane, Curtis Harrington on Night Tide and the short films, archival articles by Harrington on horror cinema, experimental films and the making of Picnic, an overview of critical responses, Peter Conheim on the restoration of Night Tide, and film credits
• Limited edition exclusive set of five facsimile lobby cards
Cruising | William Friedkin’s controversial gay serial killer thriller gets a director-approved restoration
William Friedkin directs Al Pacino as an undercover cop pitched into New York’s gay underworld in Cruising – available for the first time on Blu-ray in a brand new director-approved transfer from Arrow Video.
New York is caught in the grip of a sadistic serial killer who is preying on the patrons of the city’s fetish clubs. Captain Edelson (Paul Sorvino) tasks young rookie Steve Burns (Pacino) with infiltrating the S&M subculture to try and lure the killer out of the shadows – but as he immerses himself deeper and deeper into the underworld, Steve risks losing his own identity in the process.
Taking the premise and title from reporter Gerald Walker’s 1970 novel, Cruising was the subject of enormous controversy at the time of its release (filming and screenings were picketed by sections of the gay community) and remains a challenging but deeply powerful thriller to this day, with Pacino’s haunted lead performance as its magnetic centrepiece.
It is also still the only Hollywood feature to shine a light on the gay fetish scene – just before another deadly killer struck the community – AIDS – with all of the poppers-fuelled club action being shot on location in New York’s Meat Packing District, with the club’s members all consensually appearing as themselves in the film’s most notorious scenes.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative supervised and approved by writer-director William Friedkin
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Newly remastered 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio supervised by William Friedkin
• Optional English subtitles
• New audio commentary with director William Friedkin, moderated by Mark Kermode (PF: An incisive look at the film’s production, themes and legacy, this is a must-listen and will make you want to watch the film all over again with fresh eyes and ears — I never knew how important the sound effects were or that there are subliminal shots of anal sex inserted in the murder sequences — and Friedkin also clears up a few long-asked questions, including the supposed lost footage and what that closing shot really means)
• Archival audio commentary by William Friedkin (PF: Having listened to the moderated commentary first, where Kermode bounces off ideas off Friedkin, I found this a bit too scripted – though its still insightful)
• The History of Cruising: archival featurette looking at the film’s origins and production
• Exorcising Cruising: archival featurette looking at the controversy surrounding the film and its enduring legacy
• Original Theatrical Trailer
Jarman – Volume Two (1987-1994) | The BFI presents six final features from the iconoclastic artist, plus 66 superlative special features, on Blu-ray
It has been 25 years since British filmmaker Derek Jarman died, aged 52 (on 19 February 1994), and yet his artistic legacy continues to live on. Embracing the experimental, the political and the artistic, his cinema was fearlessly unique but also touchingly personal and truly inspirational.
The BFI’s second Limited Edition Blu-ray collection brings together Jarman’s final six features, made during a prolonged burst of creativity and political activism that followed his HIV diagnosis in 1987, and all of them featuring his artistic muse, Tilda Swinton.
These include The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) with Laurence Olivier in his last screen performance, The Garden (1990), Edward II (1993) with Steven Waddington, Wittgenstein (1993) with Michael Gough, Blue (1993) with composers Brian Eno, Coil, Scanner and Simon Fisher Turner, and the posthumously-released elegy to Super 8, Glitterbug (1994), with music from Brian Eno.
All the films are presented in High Definition for the first time in the UK, and the box-set includes 66 amazing special features – both new and archival, plus trailers, galleries of rare stills and promotional materials, and a 100-page collector’s. This truly is a must-have, and a perfect companion to the BFI’s first volume (1972-1986), which contains In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979), The Angelic Conversation (1985) and Caravaggio (1986).
•••THE FILMS AND THOSE EXTRA FEATURES IN DETAIL•••
THE LAST OF ENGLAND
Jarman’s highly personal allegory of England in the 1980s. The film combines images of inner-city decay, footage from home movies of three generations of Jarman’s family and a post-apocalypse vision of London ruled by a para-military authority.
• Dead Cat (1989, 20 mins): Derek Jarman and Genesis P-Orridge feature in this startling surrealist film in which a young man is terrorised and humiliated, later engaging in a mechanised, industrial sexual encounter
• Isle of Sheppey (1984, 7 mins): edited highlights from a VHS video shot on a location-hunting expedition, featuring Derek Jarman and cultural historian Jon Savage
• Depuis le jour (1987, 5 mins): Derek Jarman’s sequence from the anthology film Aria
• Depuis le jour: audio commentary by producer Don Boyd
• Remembering Derek Jarman (2014, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Last of England (2019, 14 mins)
• Don Boyd Remembers The Last of England and Aria (2019, 16 mins)
• Homemade Stuff and Wild Ideas: Simon Fisher Turner on Derek Jarman (2019, 16 mins): the composer looks back on his involvement with Derek Jarman’s art
• Another Derek: Jarman’s Life Away From the Limelight (2019, 5 mins): interview with artist filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis
• An Odd Morality (2019, 4 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• Another World for Ourselves (2019, 9 mins): director John Maybury on meeting Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers Dead Cat (2019, 15 mins)
• Audio commentary on The Last of England with James Mackay, Christopher Hughes, Christopher Hobbs and Simon Fisher Turner
A must-see for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Benjamin Britten’s choral masterpiece, Jarman’s film interpretation includes readings of Wilfred Owen’s World War One poetry and disturbing images of wars since. Tragedy without the triumph, in other words. Features Nathaniel Parker (as Owen), Laurence Olivier, Sean Bean, Patricia Hayes and Nigel Terry.
• Books By My Bedside: Derek Jarman (1989, 25 mins)
• Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field (1989, 32 mins)
• Requiem For Jarman (2008, 37 mins): recollections on the making of War Requiem
• Don Boyd Remembers War Requiem (2019, 38 mins)
• John Maybury Remembers War Requiem (2019, 8 mins)
• The Nature of Super 8 (2019, 8 mins)
• Caravaggio was Accidental (2019, 10 mins): Simon Fisher Turner remembers his first feature soundtrack for Derek Jarman
• Before The Last (2019, 15 mins): James Mackay recalls working with Derek Jarman on The Angelic Conversation and Imagining October
•Derek Jarman Presents (2019, 27 mins): John Maybury remembers the Super 8 filmmaking scene
• War Requiem trailer
· Audio commentary on War Requiem with Don Boyd
• War Requiem image gallery
• Derek’s Shoot in Dungeness (1990, 6 mins): rare behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage shot on location at the time of The Garden
• The Wanderer (1991, 30 mins): experimental film by David Lewis based on the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, featuring Michael Gough and Michael York
• Kiss 25 Goodbye (1991, 7 mins): experimental short on the 1991 OutRage! ‘kiss-in’ protest at Bow Street police station
• Clause and Effect (1988, 19 mins): the gay community unites against Clause 28
• Orange Juice (1984, 41 mins): Derek Jarman’s location shoot for the promo for ‘What Presence?!’ by post-punk band Orange Juice, fronted by Edwyn Collins
• Shooting the Hunter (2015, 5 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• Anything Can Happen (2019, 11 mins): Richard Heslop on working with Derek Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• The Other Great Masterpiece (2019, 6 mins): John Maybury considers Jarman’s enthusiasm for gardening
• The Garden trailers
• Life with Derek (2018, 44 mins): Composer Simon Fisher Turner’s collage of audio clips
Jarman’s trenchant sort-of-modern-dress adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the downfall of the medieval monarch, richly-textured with atmosphere, but with the homosexual content expanded, embellished and politicised.
• Derek’s Edward (2009, 24 mins): the making of Edward II
• Ostia (1987, 27 mins): Jarman embodies Pier Paolo Pasolini in this ambitious student film imagining the last hours of the Italian director’s life
• Ostia director’s audio commentary
• The Clearing (1993, 7 mins): short film by Alex Bistikas starring Derek Jarman and Keith Collins
• The Extended Derek Jarman Interview (1991, 70 mins): With Colin McCabe
• Cut/Action (2019, 8 mins): Video essay with music and narration by Simon Fisher Turner
• David Lewis Remembers Edward II (2019, 4 mins)
• The Same Spirit (2019, 6 mins): Don Boyd remembers Jarman’s later years
• Truly Beautiful (2019, 19 mins): interview with costumer designer Sandy Powell
• Derek Jarman in Conversation with Colin McCabe (1991, 97 mins, audio only)
Jarman executed this critically-acclaimed Channel 4 film celebrating the life of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in just two weeks (on a tiny £300,000 budget). Visually stunning, with some fantastic costumes (from Sandy Powell), it explores Wittgenstein’s repressed homosexuality alongside his reputation as one of greatest thinkers of the century, and features Michael Gough and John Quentin as Bertrand Russell and Maynard Keynes.
• Karl Johnson on Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Tilda Swinton on Wittgenstein and Derek Jarman (2007, 10 mins)
• Tariq Ali on Producing Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Wittgenstein: Behind the Scenes (1993, 22 mins)
• Wittgenstein: An Introduction (2007, 4 mins)
• Face to Face: Derek Jarman (1993, 41 mins): Jarman discusses his HIV status and sexuality with Jeremy Isaacs
• Producer Tariq Ali on Wittgenstein (2014, 7 mins)
• Jarmanalia with Simon Fisher Turner (2019, 17 mins)
• Films Made by a Painter (2019, 5 mins): James Mackay reflects on Jarman’s distinctive style as a filmmaker
BLUE & GLITTERBUG
Blue – the third film in the highly-personal trilogy begun by The Last of England and The Garden – received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for its uncompromising look at what it’s like to live and work as an artist with the emotional and physical agonies of AIDS. A challenge to conventional filmmaking ideas, the film sees Jarman (and friends) musing on life, death and living with AIDS using vocal and musical testimony against a blank blue screen. Its a fitting goodbye from a director who never once compromised his principals or his own vision. The posthumously-released Glitterbug is a wonderful elegy to Super 8, featuring a compilation of shorts in which the likes of Adam Ant, William S Burroughs and Marianne Faithfull all contribute.
• 21st Century Nuns (1994, 10 mins): A look at the British chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their ‘colourful’ activist efforts at fighting homophobia. Great to see this included, as it features some dear friends (some of whom are no longer with us), and is a reminder of just how far we have come with gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
• Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers Blue (2019, 15 mins)
• Simon Fisher Turner Remembers Blue (2019, 8 mins)
• David Lewis Remembers Blue (2019, 13 mins)
• Hard to Imagine (2019, 8 mins): John Maybury recalls Jarman’s journey towards Blue
• After The Garden (2019, 10 mins): Richard Heslop remembers Jarman’s later days
• Total Magic (2019, 6 mins): production designer Christopher Hobbs looks back upon Jarman’s fascination with occult imagery
• After Neutron (2019, 8 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• The Best Mentor (2019, 9 mins): John Scarlett-Davis on Jarman’s artistic legacy
• Glitterbug and Beyond (2019, 7 mins): James Mackay on the production of Glitterbug
• David Lewis Remembers Glitterbug (2019, 7 mins)
• Bliss (1991, 40 mins, audio only): the London debut of the avant-garde live show that helped raise funds to produce Blue, featuring Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton. This is another of my personal favourites as I was in the audience for this performance, and ended up meeting and chatting with Jarman after the gig. He later gave me some Super 8mm film to shoot my own experimental short, Cruising Headstones.
The Boys in the Band (1970) | Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking queer drama still has the power to shock!
The Boys in the Band was one of earliest directorial efforts of William Friedkin (who had impressed with his 1968 adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, and would next helm The French Connection and The Exorcist), and it proved hugely controversial on its original 1970 release, dividing the gay community across the world. Now, the game-changing queer cinema drama is making its UK Blu-ray debut from Second Sight.
Based on the seminal 1968 Off-Broadway hit of the same name, playwright Mart Crowley adapted his own play for the big screen. The original stage cast including Kenneth Nelson, Peter White and Leonard Frey all starred in the film, one that Friedkin rates as ‘one of the few films I’ve made that I can still watch’.
Famed for its caustic wit, savage put-downs and many expletives, the film follows a group of gay men celebrating the birthday of one of their friends, Harold (Frey), amid much drunken backbiting and, as the drink flows, the evening descends even further…
The Boys in the Band Special Edition Blu-ray is out on 11 February 2019 complete with a raft of extras, including an exclusive, brand new interview with Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard (who resurrected the play for a sold-out run in London in 2018), commentary from Friedkin and writer Crowley, as well as features looking at the film, the play it was based on and its cultural impact and resonance in the years since it first caused controversy.
Released 50 years after its theatrical debut – a year before the Stonewall riots – The Boys in the Band still has the power to shock…
Out now on Blu-ray in the UK from Second Sight
Stranger by the Lake (2013) | Sex, sun and murder collide in Alain Guiraudie’s erotic and enigmatic Gallic thriller
YOU WANT TO SWIM WHERE A MAN DROWNED?
Tucked away on the shores of a secluded lake in rural southern France lies a naturist spot for gay men. As summer begins, so do the men come looking for anonymous sex in the woods behind the beach. While striking up a friendship with middle-age divorce Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), directionless Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) falls for the attractive, extremely potent Michel (Christophe Paou). But when he witnesses Michel drowning his ex-lover, Franck becomes torn between his desire for the murderer and turning him in.
I’D BE SCARED IF I WERE YOU
There’s an air of Genet, Renoir and Bresson in this provocative and accomplished effort from French bad boy auteur Alain Guiraudie, who took Best Director honours at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) for a highly-charged film that, while not strictly a thriller, certainly pays homage to the genre. (*)
Cloaked in the deceptive tranquility of the lake’s natural beauty, this is an enigmatic meditation on love, sex and illicit desire between men. And lurking beneath the surface of its joyful hedonism is a subtle critique about the dangers of anonymous sexual encounters. While the sexual activity is explicitly shown, Guiraudie does so to evoke the raw passion that exists between the characters of Franck and Michel, two outsiders who could easily have stepped out of the pages of a novel or play by Jean Genet. Like the thieves, prostitutes and murderers that populate the French author’s fiction, Franck and Michael also find divine love in their dangerous, masculine universe. Michel is every much the modern-day Querelle, an alpha male oozing sex and strength, while Franck is the besotted Captain Seblon, who’s desire to be with his murderous lover becomes greater than his fear of him.
To create the sense that his cruising ground is cut off from society (and reality) and enhance the outsider nature of the cruisers, Guiraudie never strays from the car park, the beach, the lake or the woods. This uncomplicated set-up allows the camera to linger over the landscape to capture the subtle changes in the light on the trees and water as day turns to night , while the use of wild sound enhances the naturalistic qualities. The end result is an astonishing palette that, when coupled with the positioning of the cruisers in the woods and on the beach, evokes the paintings of Renoir and the ascetic cinema of Bresson.
The thriller elements of the film play out in the second half, following the appearance of a naïve inspector investigating the murder. His is the voice of reason and, like the viewer, becomes an observer onto this private world. It makes for some comic moments, but also some telling ones, particularly about the empty lives these men are living: they have sex with each other, but never truly connect.
The film’s ending is a mystery, offering no resolution to Franck’s predicament. However, if you find yourself wanting some kind of closure, check out the alternate ending in the extras – it’s one that outsider Genet would highly approve.
The Peccadillo Pictures Blu-ray and DVD release includes alternative ending (which I preferred), three deleted scenes, two short films by Alain Guiraudie from the 1990’s (Les héros sont immortels, Straight Ahead Until Morning), interviews with the director and the cast, a featurette on the poster, and a Cannes Film Festival special. Stranger by the Lake is also available to rent online (click here) and on BFI Player (click here).
(*) Please note that this movie is rated 18 and contains scenes of a sexually-explicit nature intended for mature audiences only.
Querelle (1982) | Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s surreal take on Jean Genet’s homoerotic tale of lust and murder
Brad Davis is Georges ‘Jo’ Querelle, a sexually brazen, amoral sailor who struts his sensuality for all to admire and swoon. An opium smuggler and serial killer, Querelle murders fellow sailor Vic and takes refuge at a seaside brothel, where he must submit himself to a drug dealer in order to win the affections of aging chanteuse Madame Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau). With a predatory cop looking for Vic’s murderer, Querelle hatches a plan to make a construction worker (Hanno Pöschl) take the fall for him, unaware that his closeted commanding officer (Franco Nero) knows he murdered Vic.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was personally at his lowest ebb when he worked on Jean Genet’s 1947 existential homoerotic novel of lust and murder. The irascible wunderkind of New German Cinema – and one of the most original film talents to emerge from Europe in the 1970s – was highly sought after for his creative talent, but deeply troubled. Shortly after filming Querelle, Fassbinder died, aged just 37, from a combination of cocaine, sleeping pills and alcohol, leaving behind a wealth of 44 films and career that spanned less that 13 years.
Querelle may lack the magic and power of Fassbinder’s greatest works, like The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant or the supremely elegant Effi Briest, but the director’s final film does show him ‘perilously venturing into new frontiers’. With unabashed queer sensibility Fassbinder captures the raw energy of Jenet’s themes of violence, passion, degradation and sexual submission, while his stylised, purposefully artificial sets, complete with it’s cock-shaped towers and other exaggerated phallic symbols (which are reminiscent of James Bidgood’s 1971 arthouse cult Pink Narcissus), give Jenet’s highly-charged novel the ideal surreal stage to swagger about on (and harks back to the French artist’s own experimental stagings of The Maids and The Balcony and The Blacks) – all set against an eternal technicolor sunset that channels Fassbinder’s love of Douglas Sirk’s 1950s melodramas. Querelle may not be Fassbinder’s best film, but its potent themes, stylised staging and Davis’ narcissistic performance make it a fascinating, and dare I say it, arousing, oddity.
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Artificial Eye Blu-ray and DVD release presents the film in its 16 x 9/ 2:35:1 aspect ratio with a choice of English, German or French languages, with English subtitles. The extras include an introduction by Tin Drum director Volker Schlöndorff (in French, with subtitles), and the mini-documentary, Twilight of the Bodies: Fassbinder in Search of Querelle (33mins, in French with subtitles).
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from 10 March 2014, and is also available to stream on-line from Artificial Eye Films on YouTube