Jim Jarmusch: Gimme Danger

Francisco Fontes reviews Gimme Danger, from director Jim Jarmusch, at the New York Film Festival. It opens October 28th.

Photo Oct 01, 9 28 39 PMThe first thing we hear in Jim Jarmusch’s new documentary is his voice. While that is the only time we hear or see him, his presence is felt throughout the entire film. This is only his second documentary (the first being a documentary of Neil Young’s 1996 concert tour), but it feels like he is right at home, creating something that is at all times interesting and stimulating. In my five years frequenting the New York Film Festival I have never seem a more excited crowd. Throughout the film you could hear cheers, claps, and feel the cloud of excitement hanging above you. And while this is due mainly for the the film’s subject – Iggy Pop and his band The Stooges – Jarmusch tells the story as it should be told.

I am not a fan of Iggy or The Stooges, and knew almost nothing about them before seeing this film. But the documentary paints a portrait of the band for those who don’t know them, while at the same time bringing priceless inside informations for the diehard fans. It is, as Jarmusch describes at the very beginning, an interrogation – and not an interview – about the times of glory, and the down and dirty of this group of men who ‘were dirt’ in 1973. But the band’s lack of professionalism is what gave them such an inherent mysticism.

Photo Oct 01, 9 30 07 PMIggy, being interviewed at an “undisclosed location” (what seems to be the laundry at his house, with piles of clothes all around) recalls his whole life – from the time of his high school band The Iguanas, when he was still a drummer, to The Stooges’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. And while this is all in all a documentary about the band, it is inevitable that its frontman, the soul of the band, takes the lead.

Iggy, who was rightfully described by an audience member as an instrument himself, using and contorting his body to elevate the music and ‘project it into another direction’, is something to behold. In all the stock footage of the band in their early days he seems to bring something new and unusual to the table – even inventing the stage dive, loosing a tooth in the process. The theatrics of the band are always present, and it is no wonder why the opening credits say “James Osterberg as Iggy Pop.” He is a character in every sense.

Photo Oct 01, 11 20 06 PMThe whole movie is illustrated not only with the aforementioned early band footage, but with seemingly random stock footage that brings life to all the stories told. Using scenes from B movies, commercials, and beyond – along with some crazy looking animations created specifically for the film – Jarmusch brings humor to the movie, keeping the tempo up throughout. And with great editing (of both sound and image), he has given us not only a portrait of The Stooges, but another great movie, with as much humanity as any of his other works. 

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