The French naval ship, Le Vengeur, based out of Marseille, has just docked in Brest for an extended stay. The ship's captain, Lieutenant Seblon, can see the passion in his men, which can as easily manifest itself in violence as it can in sex. Seblon has in part become an officer to remain at arms length from his men, one of them, Querelle, with who he is secretly in love. Querelle goes to La Feria, a bar and makeshift whorehouse owned and operated by husband and wife Nono and Lysiane, one of the whores. La Feria is infamous and notorious as anyone wanting sex with Lysiane must first roll the dice with Nono, Nono winning meaning that he will get to sodomize the loser instead. At La Feria, Querelle is surprised to see his brother, Robert, who is Lysiane's current on-going sexual partner, and who did not have to go through the roll of the dice with Nono is his special position with Lysiane. That passion in Querelle extends to his brother, the two who share more than just a family resemblance. Outwardly, Querelle goes to La Feria as a place to sell opium. However, the opium may only be a pretense as Querelle is trying to discover who he is as a man. Everyone in this collective is also on a similar sense of discovery, some who may be more aware and open about their own thoughts about the lines between sex, desire and love, those who are not as open possibly feeling shame which leads to ways to deal with that shame. Including those already mentioned, this collective includes a local stone mason named Gilles who purports to desire Paulette, a young man named Roger, Paulette's brother, with who there is unspoken sexual tension with Gilles, and Mario who, at least in appearance, "polices" the activities at La Feria.
French sailor Querelle arrives in Brest and starts frequenting a strange whorehouse. He discovers that his brother Robert is the lover of the lady owner, Lysiane. Here, you can play dice with Nono, Lysiane's husband : if you win, you are allowed to make love with Lysiane, if you lose, you have to make love with Nono... Querelle loses on purpose...
- A sailor learns to take, and give, it like a man in this surrealistic adaptation of writer and thief Jean Genet's novel Querelle de Brest by avant-garde German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In a colorful brothel in the port of Brest, proprietor Nono is known for wagering with his customers. Win a throw of the dice, and they get to make love with his wife, Lysiane ; lose, and they must take it from behind by Nono himself. One day, Lysiane reads the tarot for her lover, Robert , and learns in the cards of his intense passion for his brother, Querelle. Querelle himself soon arrives, and the brothers enact a bizarre greeting halfway between a hug and a wrestling match. Querelle, it seems, is looking for partners in a drug deal; Robert points him in the right direction. An argument about the merits of sex between men soon leads Querelle to murder his fellow smuggler, Vic. Back at the whorehouse, Querelle loses on purpose to Nono and finds he has a taste for passive gay sex. Meanwhile, fellow sailor Gil, who looks exactly like Querelle's brother (and is played by the same actor), murders one of his compatriots after the brute publicly impugns his manhood. Wanted by the police for both his own crime and Querelle's, Gil goes on the lam. Querelle soon crashes his hideout, and an intense bond develops between the two murderers -- a friendship that will lead Querelle to the greatest love, and the greatest treachery, of his life. Director Fassbinder was in the process of editing Querelle when he died of a drug overdose in June 1982. Gunther Kaufmann, who plays Nono, was Fassbinder's ex-lover; the film is dedicated to another former lover, El Hedi Ben Salem, the news of whose suicide had just reached the director. Critically derided even by many of Fassbinder's admirers, Querelle earned a Golden Raspberry award for Worst "Original" Song for "Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves," an Oscar Wilde poem set to music by Peer Raben and sung repeatedly by Jeanne Moreau. Moreau had previously starred in Mademoiselle, a Tony Richardson effort co-scripted by Genet. Look for Frank Ripploh, another pioneering German director, in a cameo.