965 (107). Rocker (1972, Klaus Lemke)

Screened April 15 2009 in Astoria, NY on .avi (special thanks to rgen Fauth for live translation assistance) TSPDT rank #866


An odd, uneasy blend of social-realist verite and low-budget romanticism, this made-for-television melodrama by one of Germany's self-proclaimed bad boys of filmmaking seems like an attempt to express both the rock and roll lifestyle mythos and its utter out of place-ness in the real world. Following two anti-establishment types - one a biker gang ex-con, the other a car thief - the film wears its crudeness on its sleeve, with endearingly campy results. Propelled by a soundtrack leveling dollops of Stones, Santana and Led Zeppelin, the film enjoys solid cult status in Germany, seemingly for the same reason that The Big Lebowski does in the US - as a compendium of memorable one-liners and for creating an alternative reality out of the ramshackle milieu of life on the fringes.

Winding through an urban wasteland of deadpan faces and a plot that is geared less towards sustaining narrative plausibility than in emphasizing the grand gesture, Lemke establishes a brazen internal logic propelled by braggadocio moments: a man can borrow a crowbar from parking garage workers to break into a car with them raising nary an eyebrow, or can ask a strange girl on a subway if she likes to screw and make out with her moments later in a bar bathroom while his brother waits among their beers. Not everything is rosy for these rockers: one of them is tied up by an unidentified gang, his lodgings burned to the ground for some reason left unexplained by the film, but makes for a dramatic moment all the same. Later he comes into mucho Deutschmarks through a drug deal so half-baked it feels almost poetic, and his resulting radical spike in swagger leads him to pick a fight with the biggest truck driver in a diner; the accosted silently gets up and proceeds to run his 18-wheeler over the rocker's bike, leading to a funeral pyre sacrifice of the motorcycle a la Jimi Hendrix's Monterey Pop guitar.

Gradually the film focuses its attention on the fate of the car thief's teen brother, a troubled kid not quite ready for rockerdom but still badass enough to send a shelf of bread loaves crashing down a supermarket aisle. In the final act he instigates a free-for-all brawl where the rockers come looking to kick climactic ass but end up looking like sloppy brawlers, while in the distance ominous police sirens grow louder. Pathetic futility wins the day, but in doing so these rockers gain a modest measure of pathos. They ask for no pity, no quarter, nothing but a space to play out the emptiness of their lives with maximum ostentation.


The following citations were counted towards the placement of Rocker among They Shoot Pictures' 1000 Greatest Films:

Christian Petzold, BPB Filmkanon (2003) Dominik Graf, Steadycam (2007) Hans Schifferle, Steadycam (2007) Oliver Baumgarten, Steadycam (2007) Rainer Knepperges, Steadycam (2007) Ralph Umard, Steadycam (2007)

Rocker Website (in German)

Production details on Filmportal.de

German Wikipedia entry (translated by Google):

The movie from rocker Klaus Lemke is a Millieufilm of 1971 arose. He is one of the Second German Television-produced TV movie, the fans like a B-movie is classified.The actors are amateurs and join in their roles under her civil name. The authentic appearance of the actors for the film is essential. The setting is essentially the Hamburger Kiez. Musically, the film is accompanied with songs by Santana ( "Black Magic Woman"), Van Morrison and Them ( "It's all over now baby blue" by Bob Dylan),Rolling Stones ( "Sister Morphine," "Moonlight Mile," "I got the blues "), Led Zeppelin(" Rock'n'Roll ") and others...The film enjoys in some circles, especially in Hamburg cult status. The Hamburg-3001-movie, which it has regularly in the program.Cause is at least from today's perspective may be partly involuntary humor of the sayings of the characters. Moreover, many of the neighborhood known so that a degree of authenticity is perceived. The fact that the plot is really sad, highlights of the film's heavy-entertainment starting. Screenings of the film are still in the character of party rule. Sayings like "Two or three years", "You do not flattest, cake!", "One is a Daimler Daimler, and this is my Daimler." "Those who smoke, it can also drink." "You are going now Hamburg, which I swear to you! "," Do you grade, "and" Can I say how late it is? "are among laughter from the audience likes mitgesprochen.

Klaus Lemke used the same act again as the basis for his later film The Rat (1993).

In the scene when the truck driver of the motorcycle driving Rockers Gerd scrap heap, Lemke picks a topic on which the legendary story of today in the book The Spider in the Yucca-Palme by Rolf Wilhelm Brednich as "Revenge of the truck driver" is described. The same theme held in 1977 in Film A ausgekochtes Schlitzohr"Smokey and the Bandit") with Burt Reynolds use.


Klaus Lemke biography in German Wikipedia

Klaus Lemke, born October 13th, 1940 in Landsberg/Warthe, is considered to be one of the most opinionated and – by his own definition – anti-intellectual film makers in Germany. He grew up in Düsseldorf and, following his Abitur, made a living with odd-jobs, including as an asphalt-worker. He abandoned his studies of art history and philosophy after six semesters.

After a number of assistant-director positions in Munich in 1963/4 (under Fritz Kortner, among others), he became a contributor to the magazine "Film" (1964/5), which went in stride with the more academic "Filmkritik" but also concerned itself with the ostracized American Genre-Cinema. In the context of the "Neue Münchner Gruppe" (New Munich Group), namely Rudolf Thome, Max Zihlman, Werner Enke and May Spils, he directed a total of six short films in 1965/6, including "Kleine Front" (Small Front) and "Das Haus am Meer" (The House on the Sea). In "König von Schwabing" (King of Schwabing), in which "coolness" was a key motif, he epitomized the lifestyle of the Munich bohemians. Concerning his political "Dilemma", he commented in retrospect: "I thought America was so very cool that I would have happily marched into Vietnam and protested against it at the exact same time."

His first feature-length film "48 Stunden bis Acapulco" (48 Hours to Acapulco, 1967) follows a dropout from Schliersee to Rome and Mexico – a man striving to hold his ground as an adventurer and gangster in the Jetset Society. In the same year "Negresco**** -- Eine tödliche Affäre" (Negresco**** -- A Deadly Affair) was released, in which an unsuccessful photographer aspires to rise above his relationship with an urbane woman in high society. Following the failure of these two cinema-released films taking place all over the world, Lemke remained, according to Ponkie, "stuck on Leopoldstraße"; shortly thereafter he began to work for television. His first film for WDR ("Brandstifter", 1968) caused a bit of a scandal: it reacted directly to the Berlin department store assault by Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader, whom Lemke personally knew.

Lemke defined himself with his energetic style, distinctive from the first Renovation-Generation of the Oberhausen-Manifest, the works of which he had already found to be "Väter-Filme" (Father-Films). The tendencies akin to those of Schlöndorff's literature-to-film adaptations disappointed him – as did exertive social obligations. In spite of his cinephillic affinities for pose and genre, which the Munich group had already differentiated from other representatives of New German Cinema, he was wholly interested in unwrought "reality". Alongside his abandonment of finely-tuned screenplays and perfect production, his work with amateur actors became his trademark. Lemke clarified this in a statement, saying that he was not interested in actors, but rather "real people" and their stories, which he happened upon in his periphery and "on the street".

Beginning in 1975, Lemke directed a number of films with Cleo Kretschmer and Wolfgang Fierek, including the Grimme-awarded "Amore" (1977/8), in which an unremarkable vegetable seller campaigns against a suburban Casanova. Lemke was also involved in a long-term intimate relationship with Cleo Kretschmer. What is more, he has come to be known as the discoverer of Iris Berben and Christine Zierl, alias "Dolly Dollar". In addition to his propensity for his adopted home (Munich) and the Bavarian province, Hamburg is an important locale for Lemke. He secured for himself a loyal cult following with his 1972 "Rocker", in which an aging, just-released petty criminal roughs up the Kiez with his motorcycle gang.

Following a carrier-hiccup as a result of a cocaine suit in the 1980's, Lemke succeeded once again in 1992 with "Die Ratte" (The Rat), which also takes place in Hamburg's red-light district. Two more of his youngest films are set in the Hanseatic City: "Träum weiter, Julia!" (Keep on Dreaming, Julia!) and "3 Minute Heroes", which is about the everyday fates of amateur actors in a 360° view of St. Pauli. He kept his small-budget "Guerilla Tactics" of filming, without sponsoring or professional actors, continually over several years of  television work. "Last Minute Jamaika" (2002), about two Munich interns who vacation in the Caribbean, brought him once more as near to Acapulco as he's been since his work in the cinema began. In an entertaining interview on the occasion of his 65th birthday in 2005, he acknowledged that he could win "cool" aspects even from "uncool" Germany.

- Filmportal.de