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DIRECTED BY: Röckët Stähr
FEATURING: The voices of Röckët Stähr, Abby Ahmad
PLOT: Röcky Stähr, a four-armed glam idol, leads the world revolution of the mind against the war-mongering C. Czar in the year 2165.
WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: As a glam rock opera presented in Yellow Submarine-style-by-way-of-Flash™ animation with living lyrics, this looks and sounds like virtually nothing out there. But its message is what makes Death of a Rockstar one of the oddest high-decibel screeds I’ve ever borne witness to.
COMMENTS: Death of a Rockstar is a shameless throw-back, from its “revolution through music” mentality, to its repeated homaging, through its bombastic revelry in bygone music eras. Simultaneously, it is a film with a dark (albeit vibrantly palletted) dystopian vision: all the violent, power-hungry nay-sayers have co-opted governments worldwide in a bid for theocratic power. Simultaneously, it has much to say about contemporary conflicts: the merits of and limits to freedom; individualism versus collectivism; victimhood and responsibility; and so on. Röckët Stähr has a lot to say, and Death of a Rockstar is not only his way of saying it, it also feels like he’s thinking things through with us, in real time, to a soundtrack reminiscent of Queen-Bowie-Bolan-Thunders-Sex-Pistols LOUD rock ‘n roll collaboration.
In its Citizen Kane-y beginning, there is a loud clap of noise and a sudden death. Cue the singing globe in a cage, flanked by instrument-playing planets, to jam out the exposition. It’s 2164, and the killjoys have won. Life is meant merely to be survived, and an omnipresent government takes hold to spare the citizenry the burden of thinking freely. Creigh A. Tohr has created a four-armed clone infused with the rebellious, rockin’ sensibilities of some dozen or more glam and post-punk rock luminaries to liberate mankind from the shackles of their own fear and acquiescence, named Röcky (hello, …Picture Show). In tandem, we see the story of Ronnie, a young woman with an abusive father and emotionally distant mother, who is forced to flee the authorities and ends up meeting the titular Rockstar.
Stähr (the filmmaker) knows his film history. He knows his music (he scored and performed the soundtrack). More importantly, he understands visual comedy (he even animated the film). When Ronnie’s writing a letter to her folks, her pen keeps dying, in sync with the lyrics she’ singing, and when shaking, scratching, and licking the nib fail to resurrect the ink-flow, she pricks her finger and the words come down in blood, just as the letter takes a dark tone. There are innumerable little visual touches that play with images, words on-screen, and quite often, the interaction of the two. The man is a natural-born cartoonist, humorist, musician, and singer.
Much of Death of a Rockstar is anti-fascist. It is also anti-collectivist. It has no sympathy for faddish leftie-ism (in a “Museum of Unnatural History”, there are various exhibits featuring banned items such as sugar, trans-fat, and drinking straws), alongside its dismissal of organized religion and martial practice. For awhile I thought this was a something of a libertarian’s dream vision. But by the final act, as Tohr sings a duet with a smashed-mirror-monster, something that had been lurking below the surface finally revealed itself: the importance of deliberation, and of keeping clear of absolutist thinking. It hit me like a moderated ton of bricks: Death of a Rockstar is an anarcho-bourgeoisie screed—one that rocks hard and fun from start to finish, and overflows with comedic self-deprecation as the pontificating rockstar puzzles through his credo to the wail of a guitar and the high-octane blast of his power tenor.
Death of a Rockstar was completed in 2020 but released in 2022. It currently streams exclusively on Tubi for free (with ads).
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…Röckët Stähr’s Death of a Rockstar deserves to be considered at least by those who seek something different in movies. Trust me, you will headbang your way into a weird universe of raunchiness, stardom, and powerful lyrics. But it isn’t a film for everyone.” -Federico Furzan, Movie-Blogger.com (contemporaneous)