Gimme Danger : A Film Review

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Gimme Danger Cert.15 Duration 1hr 48mins.

Directed by Jim Jarmusch Produced by Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin, Rob Wilson
Written by Jim Jarmusch, Cast Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton, Danny Fields
Cinematography Tom Krueger, Edited by Affonso Gonçalves, Adam Kurnitz
Cert.15
Duration. 1hr48mins

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Established

The Michigan pharmalogically challenged unhinged performer of Rock and Roll Mr Iggy Pop is the subject of this chronologically travel through the late 60’s, the formative 70’s and the drop off in subsequent decades is given a whole set of musical, storytelling, life narrative so that we can readjust our ideas of him and those times.

How he has survived is something only he can offer solutions to and in most life threatening occasions it’s probably likely he has little direct recall of.  Iggy is a mosaic, a jigsaw of American traditional culture growing out of itself.  The cultural bridge of Michigan is because of its location midway at the place in the USA people would stop on the way between New York and …  The radical center ot became through the fertility of the moving USA drawing newcomers in and their influence created a nature of the cultural America was choosing for itself.

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The film format

This really is a chronology and reconstruction of the poorly dismissed Iggy Pop history and fulcrum of pioneering influence in the rock music cannon.  From Sonic Youth through Primal Scream, Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones and many rip offs of rip offs, The Adverts, The Buzzcocks, you can trace Iggy’s influence as a performer once he got of his butt and became a showman, director of performative music.  The ripped, slim, small body shape of Jim Ostenberg is all over this film as a visual clue to the make up of the man.  We see (feigned privacy greets us first in the narrative roll of the film making) the surroundings.  His own large painting of (himself?) it a primary childlike oil painted strokes of him in a full face startled state, which I think is his default for me anyway, with a carton of Marlboro, creeping in to the screen as drug of choice, fits the 4×3 screen ratio (most of the film is in this ratio as a knock back to the timeshift) as the talking and brilliantly detailed storytelling is like a live musical autopsy those books nor much else could replicate. In documentary terms it has numerous holes.  We get plenty of revisited footagecofvstagecperformances, band member recollections and still frame reminders of who is being spoken of Warhol, Pattie Smith, Elvis, Nico, etc.

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Pieces missing

What is missing is footage of backstage or even dressing room insights (more an undressing room in Iggy’s case.) or road footage, the type of thing frequently found with various performers, from Sex Pistools, Amy Winehouse, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and interestingly and definitively offering many specs of the wordsmith, writer performer Bob Dylan of course alonsodeceven The Band narrative.  Another one would be Neil Young and his entry to the Woodstock inner world.  This maybe was a choice made early on and necessary for a survivor.

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Codes of Visual art performance.

As a performer he was stripped and able to burn his energy in acrobatic crawling gyrating and body flipping movements which and a photo fleetingly shows (or was I imagining) the balletic figure of Nico and him capture the Rudolf Nureyev of his psyche.  I’m obviously not suggesting for a moment there is any pretensions of ballet within his performance but the essence of the dynamic the body provides was another instrument to his band which he undoubtedly savoured and exploited within his confines. His bare torso is in homage to the projection of pharoehs and one of Nureyev’s favourite Russian ballets which I saw him perform in a very large tent in a London, and also at the Coliseum was The Rite of Spring, he also performed The Firebird.  I find it a small step to connect these artists.  Another aspect of performance is Iggy’s compulsion to crowd surf. Did he invent it?  Probably!  This is in my view his commune with the audience.  Once he’s in the audience he can act, can respond to what’s on stage like a political act.  It portrays his political statement, his being one with the audience or democracising the engagement of audience and artist.  So close to these influences – the bisexual Isadora Duncan was another American he must have  seen as aspiring to new art and he has invented the interaction many try and replicate.  Theatrical work alongside the tenors of the music penetrating the people.

Chronology as a history lesson

If you think of the Rock family tree books with their graphics and pages of chronology of the Bands and their personnel transformations then you will find this film is on the same lines structurally.  The beginnings of the bands Iggy Pop belonged too are a cocktail of fledgling teenage musicians.  Jim Ostenberg (Iggy) the drummer was a keynote figure in all the first bands and he carried along with him – Jim Williamson is one – and it is something of a similar middle American youth attitude – spawning an original direction.  They all railed against the sentimental and the commercial bombardment of Americana.  The black music first encountered by Iggy was on the demise of College band hopes and his 1969/1970 introduction to back music where the vibe and sound pulsates through the rough cut and sharp cut rhythms of flesh on bone of Soul and a kind of spiritual transcendence music was capable of, allowing a trip without the drugs if it reached the heights.  Miles Davis obviously the pioneer of new black jazz venturing out as small an instrument as a trumpet.  Iggy made a few dollars playing as a club drummer.  He became aware of others such as The Velvet Underground and everyone’s influence, including Any Warhol.  Nico.  After a turbulent few years of finding what made them, their music tick it became obvious the band needs a formative disposition rather than being a cast and crew of hangers on to other bands and influences.  The MC5 were their saviours.

Distinctions

It is noted by Iggy as a composition of the refusing to accept the given.  Extraordinarily he points out the Peace and Love era in which the band he was and is most associated with, The Stooges, were at their lucurative beginning.  Outside Detroit and in middle America such freedoms were seen by some, Iggy included with cynicism which gives us a clue to the historical memory and the form of real America.  Take the film Selma and its portrayal of Black activism then it is also a fact the rejection of the peace – of junked up sexual freedoms, TV, contraception and monetised youth of the backdraft of post war advancement of their parents.  So strategic to Iggy’s development were his parents who got his creative needs – he managed to drum insessently and loud in their long yellow trailer.  His father was an ex-WW2 veteran along with what were to become his band associates.

Back to his roots.

His father had a large Cadillac while his needs were simple and Iggy presents his family situation as loving and one were he was able to connect with his parents which is classic the traditional inclination.  It was not a case of his parents not developing alongside him as people aware of how America was shaping.  It is somehow realistic and cynical given the hogwash of the impact media and cultural politically structural art forms.  Buying into the fashionable Velvet Underground – Andy Warhola projects, the iconography of the neatness of all visual Nuances.  Typefaces, photographic primary art and freedom of speak – it had its Marilyn Manson and crazy criminal immigtrants, Italian, Irish – to be a cultural resilient pathway for all musicians cinema and artist, newsmakers all buddies.  The Jack Kennedy trust in peace was of course a misnomer.  His hands in arming anti-communist Vietnam factions in the early sixties,  presaged the L.B. Johnson war paced intervention.  This is allied to the Johnson tactic of giving democratic access to the Black community in order that they could be drafted into the Vietnam war.  We of course hadcthexlilexof Cassius Clay – a man who fought so no others need to -bridged racial divisions.  Iggy discovered for himself he was no songwriter or storyteller of the Bob Dylan kind.  Jim has a neat way of describing the difference.  He was no great thinker and mused on the preachy types he was amongst.  Thecpeaceniks, the social reformers, the activists and he displays a realism or shortcomings in a) his own ideas of values were not fully formed and besides he pharmisiced his mind to deconstruct humanity. b) the basis of active participants.  Bob Dylan has been a soundtrack along with the Beatles to the generations filling the machinations of industrial technological America.  Iggy stood apart from the industry ‘Stooges’ of corporate America.

Conclusion ###3

I have reservations recommending it as a four/five top rating due to the feel of an Official Biography going down as they say.  It is however a brilliant dialogue insiping film for all music lovers and anyone dipping into past eras especially the New YORK, Chicago shapes of the Seventies and Eighties and Iggy is a product as most of the Stooges were from Ana Arbor in Michigan, the radical state.  It follows the chronology related to many genres but particularly Punk and I have my views on the origins of the whole lot as I’ve tried to explore above. There is a good viewing well worth taking in and very interesting take on the good and evil sides of music.

 

John Graham

14 November 2016

Belfast

 

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