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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Fires were Started : A Film Review

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The complete Humphrey Jennings disc two. Fire were Started. 1943. Documentary. 

35m Director Humphrey Jennings
Production Company Crown Film Unit
Producer Ian Dalrymple
Script Humphrey Jennings
Story Collaboration Maurice Richardson
Photography C.M. Pennington-Richards
Cast: Commanding Officer George Gravett (Sub-Officer Dykes); Leading Fireman Philip Wilson-Dickson (Section Officer Walters); Leading Fireman Fred Griffiths (Johnny Daniels); Leading Fireman Loris Rey (‘Colonel’ J. Rumbold); Fireman Johnny Houghton (S.H. ‘Jacko’ Jackson)

The Blitz depicted

War on Britain some 75 years on from the blitz – the frequent and widespread bombing of cities, ports, towns, strategic infrastructure by German War planes – is catalogued in documentary form by the rereleased BFI film Fires were Started.

7 September 1940 saw the first bombardment in the London docks.  That place before the war the vital trade port for the United Kingdom and now dispersed but still a joyous sight and feature of humanity converting itself to other things in peacetime.  The Olympic Park for example.  This 1943 film was also known as I was a Fireman. Because of the war continuing and various attempts at capturing the times not just in newsreels or cinema propaganda stoic bravado their were people conscious of the individual moments which put the fear of God into people not on the frontline.                             The frontline was brought to them.

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Mass-Observation

As a documentary maker Humphrey Jennings was a very driven man.  As the upper middle class background gave him a sense of entitlement, and took it upon himself to forge allegiance with anthropologist Tom Harrison a group known as Mass-Observation in 1935.  For whatever reason he never went to war andcinstead became an academic and some say dilettante not realising the ‘whatever’ wheels and cogs making Britain tick.  It’s industrial health. An irony surely exists in their organisation. When it came to expression, beyond writing, painting, he got to know the power of film and embarked on experimentation even dabbling in surrealism.

Making the film

Fires were Started is a bizarre title in itself.  A meaning existing, they deliberately in 1943 started fires to represent 1940 scenes. London can take it was a 1940 film of his along with Listen to Britain. 1943. Even after the film considered herechecdeveloped a by now perceptive forward thinking imaginative underrated work called Diary for Timothy 1945 wondering what future lay ahead.  This profound piece and idea is often discovered in Newspapers or novels of the time in prospective articles etc. but applying thoughts on the future on film must be and remain unique. Actors were given scripts to follow in this documentary therefore subverting the form to begin with.  This was not done to sway the argument or construct falsehoods but became necessary because setting up in the midst of war, using people to take part in recently gathered history, finding film stock, finding time and locations etc. would have been a burden to anyone.  What was that film Martin Scorsese did in London docklands ‘recreatively’ and costing a forrtune equal to the war debt? Jennings also employed another dynamic of realism and avoided commentary.  This in itself must have had contemporaries have hairs stand up on the back of their neck and that includes the war time children.  I remember watching war ‘documentary’ as a youngster and have a spine tingling moment or two.  On reflection I was assuming perhaps the clowns with guns and bombs outside in the street dictating what way our lives should be in the sevenitites were no different from these warlords except the men who went to war as well as being conscripted went in the most part willingly.

This film blog is included as a remembrance, not a commemoration or as celebratory homage to the losses in all conflicts around the world.  This 11 November 2016 is again a time to reflect on violence applied in all its forms.

 

John Graham

11 November 2016

Belfast

Apologies for not providing a blog on the intended review (Gimme danger which is on at QFT Belfast from Friday – also note the epic Napoleon is screening from 12.00am at QFT this Sunday.) It is somewhere in the ether and I’m still trying to track it down as it’s for the most part written on a rock chronicles type film. I will post of and when it turns up as it raised quite a lot of things. Take for instance this weeks Democrat/Republican Election in the USA which you may have heard of. Michigan were Jim Ostenberg (Iggy Pop) hails from which Gimme Danger is all about actually stands aside only one other state in America, New Hampshire in it not having inclusion in the normal electoral form used everywhere else. Being the radical state it once was – I point this out as a distinction worth exploring in the psyche of this American Iggy – it resembles the election format of GB more! A lady who watched the Election on a Portuguese channel to improve her Portuguese told me this oddity.