Monday, October 31, 2016

Film review: Gimme Danger

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Review by Allan Tong

Punk pioneers, The Stooges, receive the deluxe rock doc treatment in the entertaining, funny and illuminating Gimme Danger. Makes sense that indie king, Jim Jarmusch, tells the story of the iconoclastic band that hailed from working class Michigan during the flower power era then roared across stages and recorded three seminal albums before drugs poisoned the band.

Stooges' front man, Iggy Pop, dominates the storytelling and it's clear he's the driving force throughout the band's frenetic history. Iggy's reminisces are detailed and warm. It's jarring to see him (as young James Osterberg) in old photos wearing suits and posing with his early bands behind drum kits (he started as a drummer). Blues freak Osterberg then travels to Mecca (aka Chicago) and gradually finds his voice by banding with the Asheton brothers, Ron and Scott, and a bassist, and mentoring under rock revolutionaries, the MC5.

 The MC5 spark the band onstage (and surprisingly Clarabell, the clown from the 50s' kid program, The Howdy Doody Show). Legendary DJ/publicist Danny Fields discovers them, and the Stooges land a record deal with a label that just couldn't handle them. Recording of the Stooges' three albums, including Fun House, is detailed in interviews with the band members, and so are their drug addictions.

Beyond that, there's no mention of their private lives. Surely, wives and girlfriends played some role in the music and lives of the Stooges. Also, the long wilderness years of 1975 to 2003 before their reunion flash by too briefly. Guitarist James Williamson became a successful computer programmer in Silicon Valley while another band member drove cabs. I'm not quite sure what happened to the Asheton brothers. Wish there was a little more about them in this period.

Given the lack of film footage, clever animation and deft editing keep the film moving. (The only vintage film is the often-seen 1970 Cincinnati concert where Iggy smears peanut butter across his chest.) The story moves effortlessly and doesn't suffer any slow moments. Gimme Danger captures the Stooges' anarchic spirit and turbulent history on film.

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