Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Jimmy Osterberg
Watch Gimme Danger online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
With Amazon Studios having snapped up the US streaming rights to Jim Jarmusch’s latest – one of its five films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – we headed to the Croisette to check out the VOD service’s newest acquisition.
When asked to sum up his artistic achievements Iggy Pop, a man with a voice as droll as Alfred Hitchcock’s, as lugubrious as Droopy the dog’s, puts it: “I think I helped wipe out the Sixties.”
Michigan natives The Stooges – art rock pioneers and proto-punk visionaries – can lay solid claim to being one the greatest musical forces of all time. That is exactly what they were in their brief heyday: a force like a hurricane, backed up by squalls of guitar distortion, primal rhythms and a frontman who invented the stage dive and was known for unpredictable behaviour. One of their masterpieces might well be titled No Fun, but Jim Jarmusch’s superb, at times moving, feature-length documentary about them, is an absolute blast. It’ll leave you with a big smile and wanting to hit the play button on Spotify. Search and Destroy, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Raw Power, T.V. Eye, Fun House – The Stooges penned classic track after classic track. But they never made a dime and imploded on the road after years of touring and bad behaviour.
Jarmusch’s documentary is aptly titled Gimme Danger (after one of their greatest tunes) and Jimmy Osterberg (Pop) is a great raconteur. He never oversells a story or shirks from uncomfortable truths. Many of the interview extracts filmed for Gimme Danger appear to have been filmed in his washroom or a cluttered garage. How very punk.
The old adage about The Velvet Underground goes: Hardly anybody bought their records, but those that did all started bands. It’s a neat encapsulation of the Warhol-sponsored group’s wide-ranging influence, but The Stooges were the true seed of future sounds – whether it’s glam rock, punk rock or the 1980s alternative rock era.
Gimme Danger begins not with a triumphant scene marking The Stooges’ historical significance or an iconic moment, it begins with a giant failure. The year is 1971 and the lads are playing slum dives, biker bars and other places of ill repute. They should be rock gods, but they’re far from heaven. They were all seriously addicted to smack, had not capitalised on what made them unique as an act and fritted away the dream. Everybody parts way. Pop headed off to London to hang with David Bowie, the others went back to Detroit. All were pretty much penniless.
Told in chapters with headings such as “Cultural Treason”, Stooges to L.A., Some Weeks with Nico, the playful, episodic structure replicates the feeling of a person telling you a great story in a low-lit bar, way past the witching hour, as a brawl kicks off in the background. Like The Stooges’ music, it’s anarchic, but deceptively so. Jarmusch is a master film-maker and they were master songwriters. It feels loose and cool but it was expertly designed to have such an effect. Making use of archive footage, animation, talking head interviews, old photographs and snappy editing, Jarmusch has avoided hero-worshipping hagiography and instead made a piece that thrives off the group’s mad energy and rockin’ power.
The Stooges operated like communists. They shared writing credits and money. When they reformed in 2003, and Pop was offered more money than the other original members, he turned it down and wrangled a fair share. There was no ego involved, of the variety which scuppered the VU’s reunion in the early 1990s, because The Stooges was never The Iggy Pop Show. Each member brought a distinct and vital talent, which worked in symbiosis. At their Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, in 2010, Pop summed up the band’s ethos: “Music is life and life isn’t a business.”
Gimme Danger is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch Gimme Danger online on pay-per-view VOD?
Gimme Danger is one of six films acquired by Amazon Studios screening at Cannes 2016. For more of our Cannes coverage, click here.