Iggy Pop is in many ways the quintessential Rock & Roll frontman. Jim Jarmusch is a pre-eminent American independent filmmaker of the last 30 years. Yet the pairing of the two on Gimme Danger, Jarmusch’s documentary on the rise and troubled history of The Stooges, is surprisingly straightforward for such iconoclasts.
Jarmusch mixes vintage photographs and television footage with recent Iggy (born Jim Osterberg) interviews to tell the story of a band seething with barely restrained angst and an elemental noise informed by The Doors, The Velvet Underground and Midwestern trailer park trash. Often cited as the forefathers of Punk, The Stooges cut three albums from 1969 to 1973 that had little wider cultural impact but inspired a host of artists enamored with Iggy’s undeniable charisma and a backing band that mixed Psychedelia with corrosive riffage.
The best of the television footage centers on The Stooges’ live appearance at 1970’s Cincinnati Pop Festival, during which Iggy notoriously smeared peanut butter across his typically bare torso. (Read more about that performance here.) In fact, the Cincinnati gig represents the only significant representation of the original band in action, which is just another sign of The Stooges’ marginalized position in the Rock & Roll universe at the time. But all is not lost: The final quarter ofGimme Danger covers the band’s 2003 reformation, which generated far more interest than the initial run.
Jarmusch includes interviews with co-founding members Ron and Scott Asheton and guitarist James Williamson, who joined the group in the early 1970s when original bassist Dave Alexander left. Jarmusch also incorporates animated footage to recreate a few of the band’s notorious antics, but it’s the simple talking-head shots of Iggy that deliver most of what Gimme Danger has to tell. Jarmusch presents curiously few figures outside of The Stooges’ membership to testify on the band’s behalf. The result is a documentary short on context and long on personal reminiscence. (Opens Friday at the Esquire Theatre) (R) Grade: B
Also Opening This Week:
American Pastoral // Doctor Strange // Harry & Snowman // Trolls