Gimme Danger
"Jim Jarmusch has always been great at extracting stories from his subjects. Here, his role is focused more on containment."

This is a film that should be watched loud. As loud as it gets.

'Starring Jim Osterberg as Iggy Pop' say the credits, but though names come and go, there's nothing of the performer about Iggy, despite his well honed showmanship. James Williamson, who contributes extensively, calls him Ig. This is the story of the Stooges, not a personal biopic, but it was always Iggy's story, and although he tells us that he tries to keep his lyrics under 25 words per son so he doesn't get anything wrong, he's a great storyteller.

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Jim Jarmusch has always been great at extracting stories from his subjects. Here, his role is focused more on containment. The genius of the piece is that Jarmusch manages to keep it focused almost exclusively on the bad, the music, the process of creation. Though it's impossible to cut out the sex and drugs completely (and fans will have heard plenty of those stories before), this is all about the rock n' roll. Iggy tells us with a grin how his parents quietly gave up the master bedroom in the trailer where he grew up, to get him and his drum kits out of the living room. We follow the birth and disintegration and rebirth of the band. David Bowie passes through like some ethereal sprite, remote, admiring, predatory; yet at the heart of the film is the gritty realness of dying Detroit and friendships formed in adversity, never to be broken. Musical experiments on home-made instruments, whole albums written in haste in hotel rooms, and Iggy hurling himself around the stag "like a chimpanzee" because it was the only way he could think of to express his anger.

Looking at him now, with his leathery flesh and well-worn wisdom, it's a shock to see again the young Iggy, charmingly naif, so thin he looks like he might snap yet possessed of an extraordinary energy. For all that archive footage can show - sometimes intercut with news footage, sometimes with scenes from his favourite films or the TV programmes he watched as a child - it's hard to capture such a visceral presence onscreen, but Jarmusch does a surprisingly good job, knowing when to bring us into close contact with that famous unblinking gaze. The magnetism of the man is in his realness, and those unhinged stage antics contrast intriguingly with musings on his musical development and the contribution of various friends and band members. Along the way, a surprisingly in depth picture of the development of the US music industry emerges from people who had no idea what was going on at the time. The film is a salutary reminder of the fact that fame and money often don't go together and that it's all too easy to be legendary and have to move back in with one's mum and dad.

Despite all the hardships, the film is enchanting as a tale of people who, for the most part, did what they loved, and in some cases are still doing it. Despite sometime acrimony, there's not a hint of bitterness except when it comes to the supposedly cool kids who didn't consider Iggy good enough to hang out with them when he was in school - and they, he explains, have been sort of inspiration. He even speaks fondly of Velvet Goldmine, despite once having complained that Ewan McGregor was too fat to play him. The picture we get of the Stooges is a snapshot of a happy accident; the music that accompanies it is why you should turn your volume control all the way up, even though the Stooges were only allowed to turn their amp to nine.

Reviewed on: 14 Jan 2017
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Gimme Danger packshot
The story of The Stooges.

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Iggy Pop, Mike Watt, Ron Asheton, James Williamson

Year: 2016

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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