Jim Jarmusch pays tribute to Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ lust for life in Gimme Danger.
Iggy Pop and the Stooges burst out of the Detroit scene and into the forefront of rock 'n' roll in the late 1960s. But like a cherry bomb, they burned big and fast. While they never had a hit on the radio, Iggy and his band of stooges were undeniably one of the most influential acts to come out of the ‘60s and ‘70s. More than a deserving subject for a documentary, right?
From Iggy’s (a.k.a. Jim Osterberg's) trailer park childhood, to the band’s tumultuous era as renegades of rock, its untimely demise and long-awaited reunion, director Jim Jarmusch packed a lot into this 108-minute long documentary. Partly narrated with the wry humour and sometimes factually incorrect recounts of Iggy Pop, Gimme Danger gives viewers an insight they’re unlikely to find elsewhere.
One of the challenges Jarmusch had when creating the film was that much of the available live footage had been widely seen by fans. So to fill in some of the gaps, the documentary frequently cuts away to old newsreels, television clips from the ‘50s and ‘60s (including some of The Stooges) and industrial footage to recreate the context that shaped Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
However, some might argue that there was too much filler and not enough live footage of the band. Apparently it was surprisingly difficult for Jarmusch to collect these clips, and it was up to Iggy to barter with old drug dealers, bootleggers and fans to gather recordings of old sets. The footage they did find though – including grainy videos of Iggy prowling and gyrating around the stage while rocking his signature mop of blonde hair and next to no clothes – were undeniable highlights of the film.
For a documentary about one of rock and roll’s most controversial and bizarre characters, Gimme Danger was surprisingly tame though. Consisting largely of talking head interviews of Iggy and the surviving members of the Stooges, the film followed a fairly chronological structure and didn’t delve much into the controversies surrounding the band. Jarmusch got the rock ‘n’ roll part down pat, but the sex and drugs were harder to find.
After paying tribute to the fallen members and showcasing the multitude of musicians who have since been influenced by Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the documentary closed with one final unapologetic epilogue from Iggy. “I don’t want to be alternative, I don’t want to be punk, I don’t want to be hip hop. I just want to be.”
Gimme Danger played at the Sydney Film Festival on 17 June and 19 June 2016.