REVIEW: Gimme Danger
Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson
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In the great pantheon of rock docos, this is an instant classic.
The story of The Stooges – the first major band of rock godhead, Iggy Pop – is so good that it could almost tell itself. So the fact that it is told in the doco, Gimme Danger, by the great Jim Jarmusch means that true cinematic transcendence is practically a given. It’s almost a meeting of the minds, with the funky, effortlessly cool stylings of Jarmusch (the indie firestarter behind such indelible titles as Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise, Down By Law, Dead Man, Mystery Train, Ghost Dog and more) emboldened even further by the livewire energy and no-filter candidness of Iggy Pop, resulting in a music doco that hits every point on the emotional map, bouncing from grim tragedy to literal hilarity in the space of minutes.
And unlike most after-the-fact music docos, Gimme Danger boasts an obvious not-so-secret weapon: its main man is still gloriously, edifyingly alive. Iggy Pop also just happens to be one of the best raconteurs in the business, making this doco instantly essential. Iggy, however, is far from the whole show. His partners in the primal, proto-punk outfit, The Stooges – who received mentorship and a guiding hand from seminal rockers, The MC5, but existed on a whole different plane to any other bands of the late sixties and seventies – were just as fascinating. The late, great Asheton Brothers – guitarist, Ron, and drummer, Scott – looked cool as all get out, but were wholly and willfully divorced from any musical or fashion trends, existing on their own pioneering terms. Ron is seen in archival footage, while a frail Scott was interviewed before his death in 2014, making an invaluable contribution to the film. Later Stooges member, James Williamson, is equally unpredictable, with the one-time hard partying guitar slinger eventually going onto a hugely successful career in I.T!
Utilising wonderfully grungy animation from James Kerr and spot-on archival footage, Jarmusch brings the story of The Stooges vividly to life, with their record company battles, health crises, and wars with drugs all duly featured. In a wise-in-hindsight move, however, Jarmusch eschews the typical music doco trope of having big names wax lyrical about the subject at hand. So while the likes of Johnny Depp and Henry Rollins would likely have jumped on board in a heartbeat, the absence of this kind of bow-down praise-singing stops a eulogy-type tone from ever setting in. Despite their lyrical nihilism, The Stooges were always deliriously, antagonistically alive, and so is Gimme Danger. In the great pantheon of rock docos, this is an instant classic.