The antithesis of the late-’60s flower power movement, not many cared for the Stooges’ nihilistic noise when they first erupted out of Detroit. Now though, many, many do: not least Jim Jarmusch who, with the help of surviving members (including Iggy Pop), here tells their story
Inarguably the most influential American rock band of all time, The Stooges have long deserved a definitive biopic. And really, there could not have been anyone better qualified to make it than Jim Jarmusch (who cast Iggy Pop to brilliant effect in both Coffee And Cigarettes and Dead Man). But the problem with biopics about bands who were overlooked at the time – particularly a time when video cameras were far less omnipresent than they are today – is, inevitably, a scantness of footage. Or at least footage that anyone with even the slightest interest in The Stooges will not have seen plenty of times before.
In Iggy Pop, Gimme Danger has a genial raconteur whose stories are just impossible to resist.
So while the 1970 clip of Iggy walking over a Cincinnati crowd and smearing himself with a jar of brown goo (“That’s... it looks like peanut butter!” says an aghast, old-world TV commentator over the top) may be as glorious as the day it was first uploaded to YouTube, it does not, like much of the archive footage here, feel like fresh information. In addition, most of the early days stories recounted by surviving band members are set to animated sequences: an increasingly common music documentary trick that can be effective (see, most recently, Supersonic and Montage Of Heck), but which here feels overused.
Deflating, too, is the use of The Stooges’ Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2010 (the same year as Genesis and ABBA) as a kind of but-it-all-worked-out-in-the-end finale. Then, now and forever, the essence of this most important of bands has very little to do with such establishment backslappery.
Fortunately though, in the shape of Iggy Pop Gimme Danger has a genial, natural raconteur whose stories – “I went to Detroit with a tab of mescaline and a shovel” begins one – are impossible to resist. And so against the odds, The Stooges’ very own superhero succeeds in rescuing his band’s story from the jaws of defeat.
The Stooges’ story is a natural fit for the silver screen. Unfortunately, superfan Jim Jarmusch’s love letter to them does not quite do it justice.