As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
Long overdue documentary on The Stooges is worthwhile, but not quite definitive
GIMME DANGER is worthwhile and interesting look at those perennial underdogs of rock music, The Stooges. Long time fans of the band should be mostly satisfied with this documentary about their rise, fall and brief rebirth in the 21st century to a far more appreciative response.
The Stooges primal proto-punk was certainly before its time in 1969 and really wouldn't be embraced more fully until several decades later. The simplicity of their musical ideas may have evolved from their limitations rather than some grand design. The dark and confrontational sound they created together utilized into those basic elements that can make rock music so compelling. Jim Osterberg's transformation into the iconic Iggy Pop gave The Stooges an absolutely perfect front man. While the Stooges rhythm section hardly moved on stage, Iggy's spontaneous, lanky, almost awkward physicality gave their live performances a sense of danger and unpredictability that made their shows so captivating.
Overall, this is an enjoyable enough film, but it does possess some notable shortcomings. One of my main criticisms is that there isn't quite enough focus on the music. There is ample time spent on the songs for The Stooges 1969 debut album, but the songs on FUN HOUSE are discussed only briefly. Even less is said about their landmark RAW POWER album, although though there is some discussion and audio from the early sessions at Olympic Studio. Besides "Search And Destroy", any meaningful discussion about the album or its release are virtually absent here! Instead, the story quickly moves on to the demise of The Stooges and release of Iggy & James KILL CITY project. Although the movie time is approximately 1 hour and 46 minutes, another 15 minutes of musical discussion would have been well worth the time spent.
Early live performance footage of the band was either in short supply or the producers just didn't have the budget for the rights. For whatever reason, many clips are repeated throughout the movie, mainly the classic Cincinnati Pop Festival footage showing Iggy wandering off into the audience, smearing peanut butter on himself while being hold aloft by an adoring (or fearful) crowd. More vintage footage would have made this documentary a bit more compelling.
Given that this movie is focused on the The Stooges (or Iggy & The Stooges), Iggy Pop's solo career is mentioned pretty sparingly. I respect the reasons for this decision, but it would been interesting to spend a little time talking about Iggy & David in Berlin or even just some highlights. But given how little time in the spotlight the Asheton brothers, Dave Alexander and James Williamson have enjoyed, it is admirable that Iggy's celebrity isn't allowed to completely overshadow their contributions.
It was also a good decision to limit the interview sections to the band and a few insiders. Many rock documentaries are overfilled with a parade of contemporaries, critics and talking heads whom usually only add limited insight and too much hyperbole. Danny Fields slightly overstates the importance of The Stooges during his interview clips, but this is forgivable given that he was the person that basically discovered them. The newer interview sessions with Iggy back home in his parents trailer and James Williamson holding his Gibson Les Paul Custom Pro Black Beauty are each quite interesting and enjoyable.
All in all, i would rate GIMME DANGER 7.5 and would recommend to anyone who wants to learn about the band. I applaud the spirit and well meaning intent of Jarmusch, but wish he'd not moved so quickly through certain eras. It's a very nicely done film, but also a missed opportunity in some ways.
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