Der Bauer von Babylon – Rainer Werner Fassbinder dreht Querelle (1982) AKA The Wizard of Babylon

4.5
(19)

German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder died of a drug overdose on June 10, 1982, before his last film, Querelle was edited. This documentary is both about the filming of Querelle — a sailor of that name whose love life left nothing to be desired — and about director Fassbinder’s working techniques and philosophy. While actors and workers comment on the filming of Querelle, a 14-minute interview with Fassbinder taped eight hours before he died was supposed to convey the first element, his own beliefs and working methods. Fassbinder’s mother had the interview pulled by court order, leaving the Wizard of Babylon without the benefit of the wizard’s own chemistry.

Directors: Dieter Schidor, Wolf Gremm (uncredited), Frank Ripploh (uncredited).
Writers: Dieter Schidor, Wolf Wondratschek.
Stars: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Klaus Löwitsch, Brad Davis, Burkhard Driest, Laurent Malet, Jeanne Moreau, Franco Nero, Dieter Schidor.

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I think I could have easily labelled this one as another Epic upload but since a copy surfaced on Youtube a few months ago I don’t think it’ll be considered ultra rare anymore although this is the first time this is available on the internet with subtitles so I think this is still a pretty incredible upload considering it took 40 years to be able see this online and with English subs, it took an eternity but finally we were able to make this happen and as you can imagine I couldn’t be more excited to be able to share this with all of you. Many people to thank for this: first of all a huge thank you to Jan who sent me this copy, the source of it is a 35 years old Betamax tape (recorded from the German channel WDR in the late ’80s), quality is as good as it can be for a tape this old and despite some glitches on the image (mostly at the bottom of the screen) it is better than the copy you can find on Youtube atm, the audio was better on the Youtube copy so I ended up combining both and additionally denoised the audio a bit to make it better for watching. English subtitles courtesy of Ricco (@RiccoWong1), Dennis (@ULTRAVIOLANGE) and Tristan, I also would like to thank Pablo K. who helped by proofreading the Fassbinder interview parts and to Frank (@frankpavich) who helped with some OCR work. Last but not least I’d like to thank my good friend, O.G. rarefilmm supporter and NYC Public Access living Legend Ed Grant for the daily motivation and for pushing me and insisting me to get this subbed asap, without him this would have taken me a lot more time to get done, the original plan was to get this subbed and uploaded by May 31st (Fassbinder’s bday) but due to some problems with one of the translators it had to be delayed that’s why it took a few more days. If you love cinema I’m sure you’ll love Ed’s blog, you can find his website: here, besides his blog Ed also does a weekly livestreamed show every late Friday/early Saturday where he showcases rare films, all kinds of stuff, from all eras and colors, most of them that are unseen in the U.S., I know many of people who know a ton about films but Ed’s knowledge is truly unmatched, not just that but he’s also a really nice guy to talk to, he’s without a doubt one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet since I started with rarefilmm, if you have a minute, please check out his blog, believe me, it’s worth it. Thank you for everything, Ed, really appreciate you my friend.

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5 Comments

  1. GREGORY
    June 3, 2022
    Reply

    As much as I am intrigued by Fassbinder himself, appreciate his intensity, his gall, his forthrightness, and his adherence to his vision I’ve never been able to stomach his work. I keep trying to like it, but I just can’t. I smell a vile stench in whatever theater I am viewing his work and have to go home and take a shower as soon as whatever film of his has ended. To this day I don’t know how i ever got through the epic BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ in two days, but I did, nauseous as I often was while gasping for clean air.. (Not that anyone cares, about my opinion/experience, of course!) QUERELLE stands as the only personal exception; And it is a big exception for me. I love every corner of it as a boundary pushing work of art. For me, it is Douglas Sirk on acid and the film Fassbinder finally allowed himself to make. And I’ll never forget seeing it on a large screen in a pristine print while watching 2/3 of the audience get up and walk out 15 minutes in. I sat visually spellbound as if I’d died and gone to extraterrestrial technicolor heaven. The only other film which had grabbed me in this transcendent way was Walt Disney’s Technirama SLEEPING BEAUTY when I saw it in a movie palace in late 1959. The fact that what we have is actually a truncated shambles of the original QUERELLE annoys me no end. Apparently two full 4 & 6 hour cuts remain locked up in someone’s vaults. Thanks for posting, Jon — I’m looking forward to this!

  2. David G.
    June 4, 2022
    Reply

    Thank you for this. I like/hate/am always disturbed by but can’t look away from the Querelle film and (re)watch it every few years. Given Fassbinder’s talent and ambition, just think of the films he would have made in the past 40 years! R.I.P.!

  3. Tveitt Irgens
    June 4, 2022
    Reply

    I agree to much of what Gregory writes, opinionwise. I was fascinated learning from Rarefilmm this documentary existed, a sign of my not being very much into Fassbinder. Querelle was my first conscious entrypoint to Fassbinder.

    As a child I came to love his World on a Thread mini-series for tv, without knowing anything about filmmaking or auteurs, and my appreciation for that film has stayed with me to this day.

    Seeing Querelle I was very impressed with its style, and stylistic approach and its narrative techniques, I even put the Warhol poster on my wall, even though that was more for the sake of the poster than the film. But I did appreciate it in my own way, much more so than any other Fassbinder film I ever saw after that, except for Welt am Draht.
    The Berlin Alexanderplatz I also liked when I saw it at a young age. When the series was re-aired many years later, I found it impossible to watch again. Of course, we grow and leave things behind, but I do not think it merely came down to me growing older, I think it just doesn’t work today; it’s very dated in a way good old films are not.

    Regarding Querelle and some other works, and this documentary, I’m not saying here that hedonism shouldn’t be a part of life, but if it aims towards destruction in a not utopian but in fact dystopian direction, it is wholly and solely bad.

    For these reasons I cannot even “rate” this documentary. It’s quite interesting but also abominable, inflicting conflicting emotions muddling my faculties of reason, like gays may hail Querelle as a revelation perhaps on basis of the homoerotic theme and unfolding only (which in Fassbinder’s words is not a theme, although it is, or at least can be). I detest Fassbinder’s deconstructionist stances, and his utopian visions tend towards nihilism, which is also bad. Plain old existentialism is bad enough. We need better things in our lives.

  4. GREGORY
    June 4, 2022
    Reply

    Finally, I got around to watching this and am largely not taken with it but I am very grateful for its posting and for all the hard work that went into bringing it back. Seeing Jeanne Moreau again here, I am reminded how embarrassed I am for her that she felt the need to appear in QUERELLE. It is beneath her lent presence, in my book, and she is the only element in it that simply does not work. ( I am embarrassed, actually, for ALL of Fassbinder’s actresses in his films. And those actresses are some of the very best around) In my very opinionated opinion, Fassbinder has an offensive need to transform / degrade all his women into drag queen replicas of themselves. I thought Moreau was more intelligent than to allow herself to become involved in that kind of denigrating mess but we all have our blindspots in our choices in life and i think this choice was glaringly hers.
    And maybe my whole stated opinion here is a cultural blindspot of its own …. but I don’t think so … 😉
    Though the content of QUERELLE was audacious for it’s time it is the aesthetic level of it that really blows my mind. It opened my imagination to the other directions a film could go in its formal elements and I will never forget that initial impact.
    BTW, contrary to what is stated by Moreau, Genet often did indeed watch the film adaptations of his work . He loved Glenda Jackson best in Lindsay Anderson’s THE MAIDS even though the role was written to be played by an adolescent boy.
    Thank you Tveitt Irgens for reminding me of WORLD ON A THREAD; I’ve had it here for years and never watched it.

  5. Shark
    June 5, 2022
    Reply

    “Oh and for those who don’t like movies with hardcoded subtitles…” Thanks so much, this does so much for the distribution and preservation of the piece, and allows for it to be provided in other languages.

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