Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Jim Jarmusc
Cast: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton and Danny Fields
(Queen’s Film Theatre Screening)
An in-depth look at the legendary punk band, The Stooges.
I initially got into the music of The Stooges some time after i heard that Raw Power was Kurt Cobain’s favourite album. I put off looking them up for a while, due to the memory of seeing their frontman in a car insurance advert as a child. Even in the days when I thought Peter Kay and the Michael Bay Transformers movies were cool, I knew selling car insurance wasn’t.
My love for James Osterberg (Iggy Pop) and his band of Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers didn’t come until I was first hit, ney obliterated by the opening riff of I Wanna Be Your Dog. Hearing Ron Asheton play guitar for the first time was like the equivalent of getting a crash course in physics from Neil deGrasse Tyson on LSD. The riff was simple, filthy, and had an undeniable sexual charisma to it. Although Iggy Pop is often who most people think of when they hear someone say “The Stooges”, I hold and most likely will always hold a huge amount of admiration for Ron Asheton, the way he plays guitar and his general style.
Since then I’ve been an avid fan of Iggy and The Stooges and have come to recognise their first three albums as the rock masterpieces they are So i was excited to go see Gimme Danger, the new documentary about the band from Jim Jarmusch. I was and still am almost completely unfamiliar with the previous work of Mr.Jarmusch (I think he made some movie where Forest Whitaker plays a dog who dies, then becomes a ninja, right?), but the trailer sure looked awesome:
Pretty cool, huh? Did you feel it? I know I did. A lot of the movie is like that; chaotic and dirty yet glorious and indicting. You want to be there, you want to be in this band, or at least in the crowd. However it is a good thing the whole movie isn’t like that, to make a documentary just telling crazy stories about how The Stooges, got high, played rampageous gigs, then stick on an ending with a bunch of people saying they changed the face of music, would have been fun, but two-dimensional and dehumanising. Don’t worry there’s plenty of that stuff in there, but the real core of the film, comes from the people behind the subject matter, their friendship, their struggles and their love of the music .
Much of the film is also quite depressing and hard hitting, such as the deaths of some of the musicians and the break-up of the band. Most Rock-Docs advertise themselves as showing the “Rise and Fall” of their artists, but The Stooges, were never commercially successful in their time, so some of this film is more like watching a half finished building, decay and implode rather than a grand ascend to being a skyscraper which then gets knocked down.
Iggy Pop’s an interesting figure. The man’s taken in more narcotics than an entire lab of rats own by a dingy pharmaceutical company, which has a high apathy towards animal rights regulations and has sustained more bodily injuries than an Evil Knievel figure owned by the Sid from Toy Story, yet somehow he walks among us, more alive than most.
His skin is hard, rough and orange, but his eyes radiate, sky blue like a new borns and he’s got a smirk like a teenager who’s just got away with something he knows shouldn’t have, and that’s he because has. He’s the only surviving original member of the band, a marvel of anthropomorphic biology. Iggy is the main interview subject of the movie, he takes us through the narrative, guides us through the anarchy and all of that dry, ominous, yet warm speech of his. Imagine James Earl Jones, if he’d been to hell and back.
Stylistically the movie’s great. Much of the stories that the interviewees tell, are shown using some south park-sequel animations. Certain area parts of the editing are pretty psychedelic and when it’s not, its often fast paced, grabbing you by the face. We also get to see some mad concert footage and photos, special stuff if you weren’t around at the time, to be there. The soundtrack, I need not comment on.
If you love Iggy and The Stooges, go see Gimme Danger, its charismatic, raw and relativity informative, it has no mind blowing revelations about the group, but gives a personal insight into the people and their relationships.