The masterminds Jim Jarmusch (“Only Lovers Left Alive”) and Iggy Pop combine to retell the messy story of one of the most influential American bands of all time. After over 40 years, The Stooges’ antics and genius are finally captured in one fine-tuned documentary that shies away from nothing. “Gimme Danger” is one of the most gripping music documentaries released in recent years, one any music lover should add to their must-see list.
The documentary tells the band’s story from their nascent high school years in Ann Arbor to the post “Raw Power” slump. Although popularly known for his solo work and friendship with David Bowie, “Gimme Danger” doesn’t focus on Iggy Pop’s (James Osterberg) stardom. In fact, “Lust for Life” and other Iggy hits make no appearance at all. Everything Stooges related is central for the documentary, focusing on the band and not just the front man.
“Gimme Danger” includes eye-catching animations that retell hysterical stories involving mobile homes and stagediving-related injuries. Stylistically, the documentary is a clear result of creative savants combining their greatest strengths into one work. Every edit perfectly reflects the loose structure of The Stooges, but with precision and authenticity.
The documentary is propelled by interviews from each surviving member of the band, all providing perhaps-too-clear recollections of such foggy events. Without the charisma and wit of the members, this documentary would be nothing but semi-entertaining music history with fun graphics and animations.
In Particular, Iggy’s insightful story about the drawbacks of being a drummer feels more like a comedy routine than a part of a music documentary. Essentially, staring at other peoples’ butts gets old after awhile. If anything, this is a metaphor for life; never being the center of attention takes its toll.
“Gimme Danger” balances live performances with interviews just like any strong music documentary, but it feels especially fluid here. The Stooges were not a boring live band to watch. Iggy Pop, rumored to be the inventor of the stage dive, knew how to win over an entire audience with unique dances and self-induced harm. Occasionally, it was a bit excessive, but nonetheless provides great material for a music documentary.
A beginner’s guide to The Stooges should be included with every student’s summer orientation itinerary at the University of Michigan. As Ann Arbor’s most successful and respected band of all time, they are an integral part of the college town’s rich history of counter-culture movements.
Opposed to the vacuous hippie themes dominating the zeitgeist of the late ’60s, The Stooges set out to make music not artificially created in record company boardrooms. Particularly, the story behind their performance at the Michigan Union ballroom will shock Michigan students and Ann Arborites alike. Today, it is nearly impossible to imagine the walls and floors of the ballroom rattling to the sounds of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
Iggy’s spontaneous post-riot move to Detroit sums up the entire model that The Stooges operated under: pure unorganized madness that somehow ended in musical genius. “I went to Detroit with a tab of mescaline and a shovel,” he says in the film.
And later in the documentary, an array of punk albums flows across the screen, ranging from behemoths like The Ramones to cult favorites like Gang of Four. Such bands did not necessarily rip off of The Stooges’ sound directly, but it is unlikely that the punk soundscape would be the same without their immense influence.
“Gimme Danger” is the reintroduction everyone needed, a reminder that The Stooges are still one of the greatest bands on earth. For any Ann Arbor native or frequent visitor, photos of the band members on State St. and Liberty St. will send chills to the spine. It is a true bragging right to have Iggy Pop and The Stooges under the “notable people” section of the Ann Arbor Wikipedia page. It just reinforces that Ann Arbor is the greatest college town in the country.