I can’t claim to be a fan of The Stooges, or Iggy and the Stooges as they are formally known. That’s not to say I don’t like them, but rather I’ve just been relatively unfamiliar with their music. Their influence, however, is something that even non-fans can acknowledge is wide reaching. The Stooges’ groundbreaking raw style would not only create a new genre of rock music, but would eventually lead the path to the creation of punk and alternative music, influencing bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. Having not previously been terribly familiar with the band, I was looking forward to writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s chronicling of their rise and subsequent fall.
While the film is about the band as a whole, it focuses heavily on frontman Iggy Pop, and it’s immediately clearly why. Pop is not only a dynamic frontman, but also a truly engaging interview. He’s lead an incredibly interesting life, and I feel had the film would have benefited had it been focused on solely him. Very little examination is given to the other members of the band. The Stooges were only around for seven years, and apart from their demise (which is only really touched on at the in the pre-credit sequence in the film ), there isn’t much beyond a standard band biopic here. There was no major blow out, no legal controversies, no personal angst among the bandmates. The Stooges rose quickly and simply burned out (thanks primarily to drug use, particularly Pop’s).
Jarmusch makes a point to demonstrate that The Stooges were a counterculture band, but I felt not enough emphasis was given to the music scene as a whole during that era to further his point. In what was one of the most fascinating sequences of the film, Iggy Pop discusses the peace and love “counter culture” music scene of 1969, and makes the claim that it was completely manufactured by the record labels. While the point was being made to demonstrate that it was in fact the Stooges that were counter culture, it’s a pretty bold accusation, one I would have liked to seen examined a bit more thoroughly.
I also found there was not nearly enough time devoted to the actual music of The Stooges. I would imagine fans of the band would have liked to have seen some concentration on the creative process of the band, and as someone who is not that familiar with their music, I would have liked to have seen why the band was as influential as they were. Personally, I can not name one Stooges song, not do I think I would recognize one if I heard it. I’m not saying the documentary should have been a primer for non-Stooges devotees, but one would think a film about a band as influential as The Stooges would have devoted a little more time to their craft, rather than their antics.
The actual craftsmanship of the film I felt was a bit amateurish, despite Jarmusch’s stellar record as a filmmaker. This isn’t the director’s first foray into documentary filmmaking. He helmed the 1997 Neil Young and Crazy Horse concert film Year of the Horse, though this is a very different type of documentary film. Animations and stock footage is used to help illustrate stories, which to me felt like visual crutches, and showed a lack of trust in his subjects.
I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Gimme Danger, because I did, but I walked away feeling I was missing something. This is clearly a film that was one hundred percent aimed at fans of Iggy and the Stooges, and those fans will be thoroughly satisfied, I imagine. But to me it was a missed opportunity at enlightening us uniformed.