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Gimme Danger Review: Lust For Life

Jim Jarmusch tackles Iggy Pop and The Stooges

November 2, 2016, 12:00 am

Gimme Danger begins at the end. One ending, anyway, as Jim Osterberg—now much older but still in damn good shape—explains the events of 1973 from what appears to be his laundry room. You probably know Osterberg better as the inimitable Iggy Pop, the energetic and charismatic front man for the massively influential punk band, The Stooges.

By ’73, the band was imploding. Drug use, middling commercial success and zero label support had taken their toll, and without so much as a real conversation, Pop and band mates Dave Alexander and Scott and Ron Asheton called it quits (albeit temporarily) after a disastrous show. It was a mere six years after their formation, and sadly, much of the world hardly noticed they were gone.

In retrospect, The Stooges’ impact on pop culture and music is so important, so obvious and so ahead of its time that it’s almost criminal how difficult their journey became. From Ann Arbor basement jam spaces in the late 1960s and a brief collaboration with David Bowie in ’73 to the 2003 Stooges reunion at Coachella (with Mike Watt of The Minutemen on bass) and their 2010 induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Danger deftly points out that had it not been for the turmoil, we might never have had The Stooges we know. Pop and company experimented wildly and shirked convention—damning the committee-built flower power façade of the day and taking cues from the likes of MC5 and The Velvet Underground’s Nico (with whom, the film says, Pop had a brief romantic tryst). All the while, the erratic sounds of albums like 1969’s The Stooges and 1973’s Fun House remind us that this is the very definition of proto-punk, and that most punk bands that came after looked to these guys as a sort of waypoint.

Iggy Pop becomes the focus of Danger, which is understandable given his continual time in the spotlight in everything from his work with Bowie, his appearance on the Trainspotting soundtrack with “Lust For Life” in 1996 and even a brief acting stint on the wonderfully bizarre Nickelodeon program Pete and Pete. Still, we wind up with a more complete idea of Pop’s story than the others. To be fair, original bassist Derek Alexander died in 1975, guitarist Ron Asheton in 2009 and drummer Scott Asheton in 2014, and while we do hear from the likes of Mike Watt and late-’70s Stooges guitarist James Williamson, it may seem they were merely drawn into Pop’s orbit rather than having any impact of their own.

This is not the case, and Jarmusch does his best to prove each and every member made important contributions despite fewer onscreen interviews. Regardless, by the time Danger wraps we’ve got a new appreciation for The Stooges’ influence on popular (and underground) music in a way that’s almost like a grittier, more tragic version of the story of The Beatles. For some people, this will reaffirm their own connections to music as an art form. Others will find an arguably lesser-known—though no less essential—chapter in the history of rock ’n’ roll.

Gimme Danger
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
With Pop, Asheton, Watt and Williams
108 min


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