(USA, 108 min.)
Dir. Jim Jarmusch
Programme: TIFF Docs (North American Premiere)
With Gimme Danger, Jim Jarmusch returns to the word of documentary for the first time since 1997’s Neil Young and Crazy Horse concert doc Year of the Horse. Jarmusch’s prolific body of work in between these two docs resonates strongly in the grungy spirit of Gimme Danger, which profiles Iggy Pop and the Stooges. The Jarmusch film that reverberates throughout this doc like hallucinogenic afterglow is his vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive featuring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as the grooviest pair of culturally-savvy neck-biters ever put on film. Iggy Pop, aka Jim Osterberg, could easily play a member of the film’s vampire coven (he even appears in the Canadian vampire musical Suck), while the cool, gothic fixings in his home as well as his Michigan origins, presumably offered Jarmusch inspiration for his vampire flick.
Jarmusch’s doc recounts the history of The Stooges in interviews with Osterberg at an undisclosed location. (Presumably his home.) The doc features interviews with late band members Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton, who played guitar and drums alongside Iggy Pop, as well as friends, family members, and colleagues who recall the tumultuous career of the group. Osterberg is easily the most engaging and forthcoming interviewee of the film. His openness and outgoing personality make for candid interviews as he remarks upon the successes and shortcomings of The Stooges. He’s especially frank about the group’s frequent battles with drugs and alcohol.
While some fans may consider the interviews more significant than other elements of a film, the real valuable material in Gimme Danger is the extensive archival footage that Jarmusch and editors Affonso Gonçalves and Adam Kurnitz weave throughout the doc. These snippets of The Stooges are thrilling and electric as they show Iggy Pop in his prime. He performs for the crowd with infectious energy as he gyrates, flails, surfs in the crowd, and does some bizarre movements akin to dancing. The legacy of Pop and the band is the power of their live performances and Gimme Danger jolts to life when Jarmusch lets rock history speak for itself.
The easy-going and enjoyable interviews nevertheless afford some insight, while the alternative spirit of the band endures in idiosyncratic animated sequences and snippets of classic films, mostly from foreign and avant-garde sources. This tapestry of archival patchwork conveys a sense of the band’s skill at repurposing and reformulating existing sounds and moods into something fresh and new. Jarmusch makes a convincing case for the band’s influence as Gimme Danger positions The Stooges at the forefront of the punk movement. The film isn’t quite as persuasive in claiming The Stooges to be the best band ever, but they certainly provide one hell of a good time for all 108 minutes of this documentary. Like vampires, they’ll live forever.
Gimme Danger screens:
-Wednesday, September 14 at 9:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre
-Saturday, September 17 at 9:30 PM at Isabel Bader
TIFF runs Sept. 8-18. Please visit tiff.net for more information.