It’s been a big year for Iggy Pop.
In March, he surprised the world by releasing “Post Pop Depression,” an album he’d secretly recorded in the California desert with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age that is likely to show up on my favorite albums list for 2016.
Now, he’s the star of the new rock-doc “Gimme Danger,” the film by director Jim Jarmusch that examines the rise (if you want to call it that) and fall and resurrection of influential Detroit proto-punk sleaze rockers The Stooges.
The film continues a revival in interest in, and press about, the band, which was mostly ignored commercially during its brief, turbulent run in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
The Stooges reunited in 2003 and were inducted in 2010 into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame — the film includes a clip of Iggy speaking at the induction ceremony. Founding members and brothers Ron and Scott Asheton died in 2009 and 2014, respectively.
Don’t expect a lot of concert footage, unfortunately. Jarmusch, the director of left-field titles such as “Mystery Train,” “Ghost Dog” and “Broken Flowers,” told the Freep “there’s not that much” in the way of live footage or never-before-seen photos of the band.
But Jarmusch does a good job with what he has, augmenting incredible archival still and moving images with clips from old Hollywood films, Howdy Doody episodes and even TV personality Soupy Sales to illustrate Iggy’s influences or help illustrate the stories unearthed. And as an Ann Arbor native, it was thrilling to me to see old photos of the former James Osterberg roaming the streets of downtown in the late ’60s.
Curiously, you also won’t hear or see much about the drug use Iggy and his bandmaters were notorious for, beyond a brief acknowledgment of heroin use. From the NYT:
The film includes no retrospective scenes of indiscriminate drinking and drug taking, rampant sexual behavior or fights among bandmates. Iggy Pop is not shown vomiting onstage or rolling around on broken glass, both of which he was known to do. Not a groupie is to be seen. His current wife — his third — is mentioned but not introduced. Which is strange for a film about rock music’s closest equivalent to Dionysus.
Iggy, of course — or “Mr. Pop” as he’s known to Times readers — became infamous for his pioneering stage presence, bending himself into improbable contortions, dancing like a wiry, white version of James Brown and becoming possibly the first frontman to dive from the stage into the crowd.
But in the film what strikes you is his intrinsic intelligence. He answers questions thoughtfully, and even his early and iconic stage persona, he explains, was cultivated from surprising inspirations, like Yul Brynner’s pharoah in “The Ten Commandments” and Soupy Sales’ plea to fans to limit their letters to him to 25 words or less, which Iggy said he took to heart when penning lyrics.
“Gimme Danger” also conveys something of Iggy Pop’s raw ambition, his (sorry) Lust For Life. You see it especially in his clear, wide blue eyes. They stand out in the old photos of Iggy when he was starting out as a drummer in comparatively anonymous Ann Arbor garage bands The Prime Movers and The Iguanas, and they give him a certain youthful glow even in his craggy, wrinkled old age.
The guy even explains that he was lucky to get to know and get along with his parents, who embraced him even after the band imploded and he returned to Ann Arbor addicted to heroin.
“I don’t wanna be a punk,” Iggy explains in the film. “I just wanna be.”