Criterion's Home Release of Fassbinder's 'Querelle' Features Sexy Artwork That Drives Fans Crazy

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

If ever a home video release deserved thirst-trap artwork, it's Fassbinder's 1982 masterwork about a sultry sailor, his complicated relationship with his brother, and a mélange of sex and murder. Criterion delivers with a newly produced image that beefs up star Brad Davis ("Midnight Express"), dresses him in back-alley sailor chic, and covers him with a gleaming, sweaty sheen.

An added plus is that, according to artist Astra Zero, the artwork is absolutely, 100% AI-free – which puts to rest a recurring question posed at Criterion's X post of the artwork.

Criterion's art director, Eric Skillman, reiterated the completely human-sourced credentials of the artwork, posting, "No AI has been used in this, or any, Criterion design."

"We remain committed to the talent and creativity of the illustration community," Skillman added.

Another question that came up was the similarity to Astra Zero's vision and Tom of Finland's signature style.

Astra Zero answered that "Fassbinder specifically cited the work of George Quaintance and (to a lesser extent) Tom of Finland as influences on the visual look of the film, So I tried to incorporate the essence of that while creating the work in my own style."

The artist responded to observations that actor Brad Davis was not as well-muscled as the character he played is represented as being. But, as Astra Zero noted in turn, the cover art was "not meant to be hyper realistic".

Indeed, it's a very different vision to the film's original poster art.

The Twitterati were divided on the Criterion artwork, with some dismissing it ("the fact that so many people mistook it for a soulless AI art speaks for itself") while others couldn't wait to get hold of a copy.

Those who make a point of adding the film to their collection for the artwork might echo the sentiments of Twitter user @jaywhohuh, who reckoned that there's "Nothing like a good dock trade himbo to spice up the Criterion shelf."

"This is Genet grinds Fassbinder, sprayed with Kake, Cocteau, and spritzed with Le Male," @jaywhohuh added.

"I don't think either of us realized what a bold risk it would become .Lol," Astra Zero posted in reply to one comment. "I do make some deliberately controversial work now and then, but it was never my intention with this project, lol"

That said, Astra Zero admitted in another post that "the first draft was even more 'spicy' but we had to make it appropriate & approvable for mass production and re-sale in stores".

Added the artist: "trust me , if you've seen the film, I could have gone sooo crazy with it , lol".

Of anything, that's an understatement. The movie, which is based on Jean Genet's 1947 novel "Querelle of Brest," follows the titular sailor, who, having come to port in the French harbor city of Brest, brawls with his brother, Robert, becomes mixed up in the underworld drug trade, and intentionally loses a game of chance in order to have gay sex with the husband of Robert's lover. As the film continues, Querelle begins a love affair with a fugitive named Gil, who looks like Roger.

"Enacted with dreamlike stylization by a cast of international stars, including Jeanne Moreau and Franco Nero, Querelle finds Fassbinder pushing his taboo-shattering depiction of gay desire to delirious extremes," the product description on The Criterion Collection website reads.

Criterion's home release edition, which is prepared from a "restored high-definition digital master," releases on DVD and Blu-ray on June 11. Will you be ordering your copy from Criterion?

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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