Wednesday, 23 November 2016

GIMME DANGER review

Out now in cinemas and on VOD is Jim Jarmusch's documentary about rock and roll pioneers, The Stooges.
Gimme Danger starts in typically unconventional fashion, showing the band perform after they've recorded all their albums and are on a path of immediate self-destruction, explaining that "The Stooges are one of the most influential groups in the history of rock and roll, but in 1973 they were dirt".

Flashing back to the band's formation, our narrator throughout this journey is the band's frontman and rock icon, Jim Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop. Iggy is one of those rock and roll figures, like Keith Richards, where it's hard to explain how he's still alive. Yet alive he is, a survivor of all the sex, drugs and rock and roll, and able to (impressively) recall so much about the history of the band, his influences and how he ended up where he is today. Starting out as a drummer for various bands in the late '60s, he moved to the front when he "got tired of looking at someones butt all the time".

Billed as the story of The Stooges, this documentary is honest enough about knowing the audience desire to focus on Iggy's time in the band, and is a better film for it. That's not to say that the other members of the band are ignored or even short changed, but when dealing with a force of nature like Pop, it's best to stand aside and allow him to take centre stage once more. Hey, even the band acknowledged this in their lifetime by often being billed as Iggy and the Stooges, and this film does a lot to show that Mike Watt, James Williamson, the Asheton brothers and so on, were more than just his backing band.

I'll be honest that apart from some rudimentary knowledge of the band's greatest hits, I was not aware of the history of The Stooges; their move from Michigan to New York, hanging out with Andy Warhol and Nico, Iggy inventing the stage dive and knocking his front teeth out in the process, and their under-acknowledged position as the fore-fathers of the punk movement. Iggy has been one of the most iconic frontmen of the last 40 years, and I would have to question director Jim Jarmusch's choice to place him centre frame and then under explore the solo career that followed, including his work with Lou Reed and David Bowie and growth into a godfather of rock and roll excess. It would have been a very different film, but it may have been a more rewarding one. Jarmusch has worked with Pop in his films before (Dead Man and Coffee and Cigarettes) and clearly has a good relationship with him, and perhaps felt that this chapter of his life was the most defining one.

Jarmusch is clearly a fan of the band (in his opinion "the greatest rock and roll band ever"), and Gimme Danger is successful at showcasing The Stooges as a vital live act who never achieved the recognition they deserved at the time. As this documentary comically states about the time the band drove their equipment truck into a bridge "they were victims of the lack of their own professionalism", but more than anything this documentary is able to express the band's desire to keep the show on the road, showing their rebirth into a modern music festival highlight.

Like the archive footage we see of the band's performances, Gimme Danger has a raw quality to it, but Iggy shines through and was born to entertain.

Verdict
4/5

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