Dec 27, 2012

Rocker



Forget Easy Rider (1969) and the popular multicultural-friendly popular FX TV series Sons of Anarchy (2008-present), those crazy krauts did it better with mediocre medium of mere German television with Rocker (1972); a biker flick with actual brazen balls and a brutal body without the cowardly cop-out of a bullshit hippie message. Directed by agile Aryan auteur Klaus Lemke (Paul, Finale) – a self-proclaimed ‘anti-intellectual’ filmmaker known for his sometimes offensive personal opinions – whose debut feature-length film 48 Stunden bis Acapulco (1967) aka 48 Hours to Acapulco was described by German New cinema König Rainer Werner Fassbinder as one of the “most important” German films of its time, Rocker is no less an important film, even if it was made for the idiosyncratic social and culture climate of early 1970s Hamburg, Germany where long-haired blockheads in scratched leather jackets and fueled by deep visceral hate, active nihilism, and unhinged hedonism roamed the streets on their motorcycles and blessed the crooked concrete city with blood, piss, and liquor. If anyone wonders where Austrian martial music musician Albin Julius – a man with an identity crisis who went from being a pseudo-Goth to a ersatz fascist to a retro retard – copied his latest look from, look no farther than Rocker; the indisputable real deal when it comes to masculine men with muttonchops, motorcycles, merry misanthropy and murderous Männerbünde. The sons of German soldiers who were the first to display Schutzstaffel (SS) insignia on their totally killer choppers, the raging and riotous renegades of Rocker are dedicated to blood and honor, even if not in the same manner as their fierce forefathers, but among an urban ghetto of daring delinquent friends. Utilizing amateur actors and real bikers, including “Die Bloody Devils” motorcycle gang, Rocker lends itself to a certain gritty realism that most films of a similar persuasion lack, which director Klaus Lemke utilized in his later film Die Ratte (1993). For those who have to have their biker flicks featuring classic rock ‘n’ roll tunes, Rocker also features an iconic soundtrack, including hits by Led Zeppelin, Santana, Them, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and a couple others that put the soundtrack to Easy Rider to shame, but just like any other decent cinematic work, Lemke did not need the gimmick of popular counter-culture music to make a classic cult film. In a rich and reckless Teutonic tradition of stark street trash cinema that was followed by Supermarkt (1974) directed by Roland Klick and The End of the Rainbow (1979) aka Das Ende des Regenbogens directed by Uwe Frießner, Rocker shits on high kraut kultur and does a splendid job doing so, but it was only reflecting a degenerate zeitgeist that plagued the Fatherland during the post-WWII years. 



 Things were looking up for charismatic street criminal ‘Rocker’ Gerd (Gerd Kruskopf) after getting out of jail and being warmly welcomed back by his biker buddies, but a lot has changed since his life-idling imprisonment, including his girlfriend, who went from being a biker babe to a would-be-bourgeois bitch now working in a dapper department store. Somewhere else in town is a degenerate car thief named Uli (Paul Lys) with a certain seedy scumbag swag and misleading boyish good-looks, sort of resembling a German Jim Morrison except minus a marvelous way with words that allows him to trash talk random girls into allowing him to prod their meat curtains. One day, Uli gets mixed up with the wrong kraut pimp with a fucked up pseudo-chic bleach blond hairdo and is beaten to death one night while in a drunken stupor in front of his impressionable yet intrepid 15-year-old brother Mark (played by Hans-Jürgen Modschiedler who also starred in Lemke’s 1975 TV movie Teenagerliebe). Naturally, Mark, although a wee lad that could easily be mistaken for girl, vows revenge against the flesh-peddling mensch who killed his bro and he eventually meets up with rough Rocker Gerd to help him carry it out. Given grief by his blue collar father because of his noisy rock music and eventually having his house burned down by phantom rival gang members as he is beaten senseless while tied to a tree, barely escaping with his life, Gerd basically loses everything he has left, so he humors the young boy Mark when he comes to his local bar, teasing the boy for his pronounced “purity” and ignorance towards the more wanton and reckless ways of the world. Although neither realizes it at first, Mark’s brother Uli was a friend of Gerd’s ex-girlfriend, thus the union between the bodacious biker and the young buck seems to be the result of a rather romantic yet certainly sleazy storybook fate in a cinematic work that has more in common aesthetically with Cinéma vérité works than some sort of fantasy knight tale. After Gerd casually cons some American drug dealers into buying a suitcase that they assume is full of drugs but is instead full of junk and not the sort you shoot into your arm, he buys a new motorcycle with his sweetly swindled deutschmarks and hits the road with little Mark. On the way, they face some misfortune, including the destruction of the newly accorded motorcycle by a disgruntled, morbidly obese trucker that Gerd heckles, but ultimately the two down-and-out misfits have a showdown with the prick of a pimp and his homo-like hoods who was responsible for brother Uli’s premature death.


 A gorgeously gritty and exceedingly exciting piece of anti-rational German proletarian neo-romanticism, Rocker – a rough and tough cinematic work that is far from immaculate in terms of technical direction and having a clandestine plot, but never settles for anything less than aesthetically abrasive imagery and lovely lowbrow entertainment – is a film that deserves more recognition than the cult status it has in the marginal Teutonic ghetto of Hamburg. Not settling for the ‘victim mentality” that Easy Rider wallows in, especially during the conclusion nor pathetic political propaganda of the quasi-hippie sort, Rocker presents the timeless story of “us versus them” without resorting to pathetic moralistic preaching nor promoting acceptance of the wild 'other' as just fine with the obscurity of his blood brotherhood. Innately influenced by a Hollywood-contrived foreign culture that they seem to only understand superficially as demonstrated by Gerd’s poster of Marlon Brando from the iconic rebel motorcycle gang flick The Wild One (1953), the brassy blockhead bike boys of Rocker have fashioned a sinful and subversive subculture all of their own that demands loyalty before death and death before loyalty.  Rocker ends with the face of teenage troublemaker Mark, who just got involved with his first gang fight, staring into the distance of a future that may be less than fruitful in terms of monetary gain and social prestige, but he can now sleep in safety knowing that his ill-fated brother has been avenged and that he will be regularly devouring the fruit that made man wise with fierce fast-fucks and moonlight motorcycle rides, even if he has an old lady heckling in the background to get a job at the local convenience store.



-Ty E

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