Alain Resnais’ And RWF’s Two Films As Repercussions And Variations Of Each Other

Eccentricities, Banalities And Creative Potential Of Heterosexual And Homosexual Libido

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Sudden enigmatic meeting is love’s first strike


In the castle of baroque décor X is looking for somebody. Does he really know for whom? Or, may be, he just wants to find out.


A appeared to X through an ornate mirror. But could X notice her with the same power of the magic immediacy – as his instant and eternal fixation, had he seen her, let’s say, in one of the halls or corridors?


Under X’s gaze A (Delphine Seyrig) is or tries to be impenetrable


X and A are, as if, alone in the universe


Why is A still in the hall though the guests have left? Is she waiting for somebody? Perhaps, for X?

Men’s deadly and immortal rivalry for a woman’s love


The rituals of men’s competition for hetero-amorous objects are rooted in their legendary jealousy capable of destroying mountains


Game and a match between X (Giorgio Albertazzi) and M (Sacha Pitoeff)


The spectacle of men’s competition for a woman, success and glory collects more and more spectators


According to a famous saying “who is lucky in cards is not lucky in love” M wins over X, but not before the both competitors were turned upside down (not before their reflection on the glass table was transformed into an image by Alain Resnais)

Love as a meaning of life


The fact that A allows X and the viewers to see the impressive interior of her room for the first time suggests that X is becoming successful with appreciating A’s genuine and overwhelming charm


The more X became fascinated with A the more versatile and multifaceted she became, and even more charming


Now, A is for X much more than just an irresistible woman. Is irresistibility something like the essence of feminine attractiveness?


Every day A becomes for X more and more surprising in her appearance and behavior, more and more exotic and impressive


A and X have stopped to be, correspondingly, beautiful and handsome aristocrats. Now, they’re just two human beings in love


Beloveds’ first shy and delicate intimate touches


In the luxurious park around the magic castle he and she became a couple. To be in love for aristocrats it means just to be human beings – a rare luxury. But in Fassbinder’s “Querelle” we shall see that for the poor the luxury of just human love is almost not available.


Simple physical tenderness as an experience made the destiny of A and X inseparable.


Finally X felt that it’s possible for him to make an offer to A without a need for a quick answer.


After all we come to see A and M in a social setting again. What does it mean? Reconciliation? Coming back together? What will happen to X? But can it be just a positive mutual “goodbye” between the old couple?

Querelle as he is – as he is made by the deprived environment of his childhood and youth


In contrast to the rich or the middle class people guys like Querelle (Brad Davis) were not educated and never lived in a tolerant atmosphere. For young people like this but with decency of soul – misbehavior, crime and social and sexual deviations are not only result of fight for survival but a kind of ordeal, a sort of initiation ritual of proving their riskiness, courage and masculinity – their strength to resist being subdued in a ruthless fight for domination. That’s why we see, that Querelle in his readiness to use a knife in a physical fight – has such a naively solemn facial expression.


That’s why anybody who like Vic Rivette (Dieter Schidor, a co-producer of the film) expressed doubt in Querelle’s courage, had to, in this milieu, be killed.


To become a real macho – super-macho Querelle is challenging Nono (Gunther Kaufmann), the owner of the brothel. Querelle is fixated (what is typical of youth from his background) on overcoming his “sissy-side“- he invents an “ordeal” for himself – readiness to be sexually used in the most “insulting” of ways – a tergo. Through this Querelle wants to be recognized as already not just masculine but as a super-masculine who has overcome the very fear of “femininity”.


Querelle is able to go through this “humiliating” procedure to prove to himself that he’s no chicken, but super-courageous person.


But together with pain and being “branded forever” the feeling of belonging to a tough masculine brotherhood comes to Querelle (Brad Davis).


Similar ordeal of being “reduced” to a “passive role” Querelle is going through with Mario (Burkhard Driest) the port’s police captain.


These victories over himself in order to be stronger in spirit than everyone else made Querelle into a kind of local hero. He lives in an imaginary world of romantic ordeals. He felt that he is above everybody who are afraid to be used sexually because they’re not sure of their masculinity, as if, for them being used like this is a confirmation of being a sissy.


From now on he can afford to say what he really thinks about these two guys, Nono and Mario keeping the port under control, to their very eyes.

Querelle and Mme Lysiane, “the madame of Brest’s port town”


Madame Lysiane is intrigued by Quarelle’s independence and power of his character. She, wife of Nono and his partner in business, allowed Querelle to be intimate with her – it meant he can visit her in her bedroom, and while masturbating – simultaneously using a rather rare privilege of talking to her frankly. Querelle‘s elder brother Robert (Hanno Poschi) is Mme Lysiane’s official lover and a local crook.


Mme Lysiane and Querelle’s very specific amorous connection became more and more dense and serious


At a certain point Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau) understood and theatrically confessed to herself that it’s very difficult to emotionally control Querelle


Mme Lysiane even lost her self-composure when she came to the conclusion that Querelle will not become one of her loyal lovers.

Qurelle and Lieutenant Seblon


Lieutenant Seblon (Franco Nero) is the only educated person amongst the film-characters with lumpen-proletarian background. He is differentiating Querelle (Brad Davis) from the other sailors not only because he is sexually attracted to him, but rather his physical fixation on the unusual sailor grows deeper and more dramatic because he yearns for human contact with a person fatally separated from him by the iron bars of social hierarchy. Sometimes Seblon feels himself as Querelle’s elder brother, but he is not able to make his predicament obvious.


Seblon is more and more disappointed with himself for his cowardice for not being frank with Querelle – to open what for him is so scandalously clear. He feels guilty in front of the young sailor who is trying to understand something but without humanistic education won’t be able.


In despair Seblon starts to visit the dark corners of the port only to reproach and condemn himself even more


At the bar of the whorehouse Robert, Querelle’s brother is dead drunk-drugged, as usual. But behind, in the background we see Querelle himself drunk enough to make a Nazi salute to Nono. Of course, his saluting is not serious – by this Querelle is mocking Nono’s sexual prowess and his presiding position as a power authority in the area. Appreciate Fassbinder’s creative trick in this shot – the two stools on the customer side of the counter look like Nono’s legs – probably to emphasize his omnipresence in and around the bar.


Step by step Querelle and Seblon started to establish a mutual frankness but the sailor could never really expect that a leading officer of the ship will have and express human interest in him.


Finally, Seblon made a step – he felt that he is obliged to explain to Querelle the difference between pseudo-problems of life from the real ones. He understood that if he will not try to intervene Querelle can drown in drug dealing and crime and that he has to stop Querelle’s absurd megalomaniacal complexes – his super-masculinity and super-courage – and to help him in developing rational thinking of nuance and verbal patience.


Will the officer of the ship and low-rank sailor be able to help one another in becoming more reasonable in thinking about himself and the world (Querelle) and more in need of another human being to be together (Lieutenant Seblon) in a world where fight and rivalry are the ultimate principles?

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The immense castle with majestic architectural decorations, with men in tuxedos and bowties, postures and profiles – or the ship polished by the sailors’ torsos, sweat and slang.

The elegant men with sophisticated women – or muscles and armpits of the working people (cast of the ship’s grooms).

The hypnotic rituals of aristocratic reciprocity (partnership or mutuality can be granted only through distanciation) – or improvisatory drug dealings in smelly back streets of anonymous ports.

Love with sexual overtones – or sex with or without amorous connotation (subdued by shame). What is this magic castle with a park and what is this magic ship with a nport – which transform life as (it’s) [a] given into life as willed, discovered, created?

Is Querelle Marienbad’s X? Is Madame Lysiane Marienbad’s A? Is Lieutenant Seblon Rob-Grillet’s authorial presence? Is Fassbinder’s directing moving away from, but still echoing Resnais’ auteurship? Does Mario-the port policeman in a way remind us of M, not in relation to A, but rather to X and Nono? In both films the results of amorous interchanges are hidden by the future, in Marienbad not just doomed, but locked, as the castle is locked onto itself, and in Querelle – as foggy as a trip to other lands and by itself is like one of these trips.

Love/sex/amorous/sexual/competitive/sado-masochistic obsessions are destabilizing agency in our world of self-regulation and stabilizing ritualism where the wealthy are supposed to behave as wealthy, and workers as workers. But some things happens in this lawful-awful division of emotional labor – Marienbad’s aristocrats start to behave like regular human beings: they fall in love/sex like laborers in sex/love. And this fact messes up the defining points of the universe. A becomes X-excited, Madame Lysiane Querelle-excited, and Querelle – world-excited, while the world – XA excited and by Querelle’s multiple and passionate and courageous curiosity.

Libido liberates A from the castle like it liberates Querelle from the ship. Libido inflames imagination like rocket takes the satellite to the sky over the abyss.

X inspires A to follow him out of the conformist castle of status quo into amorous bubble of isolation from the frozen social world (X + A = survival of the future generations’ potential for freedom from existing values, norms, aesthetic prejudices and tastes, habits and desires we’re programmed with as every generation before and, most likely after us). But the liberation from ridiculously pompous and frustrating reality is only possible in a condition that it’s a liberation into private life of personal amour and emotionally sexualized inexhaustibility supported by hetero-erotic reproductive fertility.

Contrarily Querelle unintentionally inspires Lieutenant Seblon not for exceptional entry into the bubble of private happiness, but to stay inside the existential structure of social/private relationships positioned in the alternative modality in comparison with the existing (outdated) values or sentimental rebellion against them. Social dynamism of conservative orientation – social mobility on the wings of money (the great like grave invention of the 20th century) and techno-scientific sophistication of private wealth-making in post-modernist democracies of the 21st have proved that private cave of heterosexual love belongs to the same castle where the idea of something more humane outside can be born. It’s this conservative in essence fake and agitated social dynamism X and A were instinctively trying to keep on the periphery of their life. Historically speaking, homosexual libido in the style of “Querelle” was in the beginning oriented on existential alternatives to the status quo. It looked for not for private amorous conclave but for sociality morally transformed and sociologically modified. Yet, the objective development of today’s democratic societies uses philistinism to make homosexual relations as stationary as traditional heterosexual middle-class marriage. It looks that in the conditions of modern “civilized” life homosexual philistinism is as well trained in hierarchical living, normative mutuality and games of “soft” domination as its heterosexual double. It seems that homosexual libido’s conformist potential is not weaker than the heterosexual one, as soon as its right to exist has been granted. As we see, conformist reaction can be the expression of gratitude for non-persecution, not only reaction on persecution.

Of course, like Resnais in “Marienbad” aestheticizes all the satiric energy at the disposal of his talent not to distort the genuineness of the film’s beauty, Fassbinder tries to be sure that his film’s depiction of homosexual libido is not soiled with “romantically propagandist intention” – that two basic characters of “Querelle” (Querelle and Seblon) are interesting not by themselves but by their attempts to position their libido in socio-politically meaningful way.

Obsessive amorous desires had always been used by the decision-makers as a channel by which people’s energies of protest (reacting on human disappointments and frustrations) were taken out of public space. Resnais’ choice of castle as a signifier of socio-political status quo (as a metonymy of the castle inside human soul) is made possible by the knightly cult of the lady as a personification of sublime soul and by people’s fixation on the ideal of eternal sublime redeeming the unity of the two sexual sinners – man and woman. It is this sacred unity which hides the amorous couple inside a blissful eternity.

On the other hand Fassbinder’s choice of the ship is not, of course, a metaphor of settlement of split and unified amorous monad, but of a destiny based on a dedication to life as a creative existential search with its risks and challenges not only in personal, but in social sense which includes amorous nucleus only as a part of existentially-spiritual meaning.

The upper class aristocracy’s ritualistic life-style in Resnais’ “Marienbad” is barely compatible with the crude and violent proletarian life in Fassbinder’s “Querelle”. Resnais not only rewards us aesthetically, but by providing us with a relevant ironic condescension towards even the most “perfect” castle personages. But at the end of Fassbinder’s film we amidst uneasiness of witnessing the raw life of poverty, illiterate worldviews and violence of animosity and friendliness feel some hidden-hinted perspective on the very possibility of an alternative life. The very Genetesque combination of proletarian theatrics and poverty-ridden (compensatory) megalomania makes these sailors as “negative aristocrats” a lost and forgotten shadow version of Robbe-Grillet’s castle’ inhabitants. But living in a no-way-out-ness triggers in them imagination which opens to them much more “impossible” perspective than the aristocrats on the top get from their titles, heritage, privileges and impeccable mannerisms. Those who live and die in gold are locked forever in golden cages, but who live and die in between dust and wind and rain and dirt and blood and lust can dream and for this reason can be oriented on essential change.

Fassbinder in “Querelle” emphasizes that in order for social life not to be just power-ridden, defined by career-success and materially prosperous, but humane and moral, permanent communication between the under or uneducated and culturally illiterate and those who are existentially competent and psychologically sophisticated and refined is the very necessary prerequisite for a possible benevolent historical development. It is existential pedagogy that is the nucleus of a prosperous, successful society, not monarchy of technological ruling over and colonizing life and world.