[“Gimme Danger” by The Stooges]
Gimme Danger, the Jim Jarmusch-directed rockumentary released in October on The Stooges, opens in media res in 1973 with the band in freefall. It’s a classic device, starting with your heroes at rock bottom; it’s a shame the film doesn’t quite know where to go from there. As we follow the band from humble beginnings to moderate success to disaster and, ultimately, to overdue glory, the film can’t help but flounder a bit. Part of this is no doubt thanks to the bizarre career arc of The Stooges, which surely made it difficult to craft any kind of coherent narrative out of the fits and starts of Iggy and company. On the other hand, we watch music documentaries to understand the soul of an artist. It’s a let down when that’s lacking.
Part of what makes Gimme Danger feel disappointingly opaque is the limited perspective represented. The focus is overwhelmingly on Iggy Pop, née Jim Osterberg, the electrifying frontman of the group who went on to a successful solo career. This is understandable on multiple levels: Mr. Pop is both the most iconic band member and one of the only ones still alive. In practice, however, the detailed background that we get about Pop’s childhood and journey—how he went from being Jim from the trailer park to Iggy Pop, superstar—emphasizes how little we actually learn about the supporting cast. One has to wonder why Jarmusch didn’t just make an Iggy Pop documentary rather than a Stooges one.
The Pop focus does, however, lead to some of the best moments in the film. Iggy Pop is compulsively watchable, whether he’s giving a laid-back interview or shrieking into a microphone wearing nothing but jeans and a dog collar. His dry humor is a high point: Pop sums up meeting David Bowie for the first time by deadpanning, “David was… cool.” His charisma is enough to carry the film, but perhaps not as far as you might hope.
For the film remains unsatisfyingly superficial in some ways—we’re told how influential The Stooges were, without really seeing that influence at work. Jarmusch is either unwilling or unable to really show the highs (fame, glory) or the lows (drugs, indifference) that characterize The Stooges. Although it engages all the clips, photos, videos, interviews, and animations it can, the film never quite moves beyond surface-level documentation. Ultimately, Gimme Danger is a decent rockumentary that will satisfy fans of the band but be quickly forgotten by general audiences.