Cannes 2016: Gimme Danger

I covered Cannes Film Festival this year, and I will be posting my reviews here weekly. My pieces are on a website known as The Upcoming and have been published in something called Swipe magazine.

By most accounts The Stooges revolutionised rock music in the late 60s and early 70s. Jim Jarmusch, in close collaboration with frontman Iggy Pop, offers a relatively conventional documentary of the band’s history, encompassing the traditional rock star career fluctuations: initial musical success, the descent into drugs and – for some in the tale – a significant reversal of fortunes. Jarmusch’s evident love for the music, and his artistic respect for Iggy and the other band members, both enlivens and inhibits the film. It rollicks along at quite a pace, being both affectionate and funny towards its cast of talking heads, and the roll call of obituaries is particularly heartfelt. But the bad times are passingly referenced more than explored (although this is no hagiography), and because the story is told chronologically and mostly straight there is little space for visual or thematic invention.

For fans of The Stooges, however, this is a treat: an album-by-album analysis of the band, an in-depth exploration of the member rotation and residency changes, and a tribute to their musical influences as well as their descendants to the punk throne. But there is no doubt that Iggy is the star. His olive, defined torso appears in various states of wear throughout the film, the only constant throughout the aesthetic metamorphoses during his career. (He’s dropped the dog collar, now.) Iggy’s limber, visceral stage performances are displayed immediately, but his intelligence, articulateness, self-confidence and musical ability also shine through. However, it would have been interesting to see a slight digression into his solo career, and a larger emphasis on his personal and professional partnerships with the likes of David Bowie, which produced some of the great pop music of the late 20th century.

Gimme Danger repeatedly returns to the opening riff of The Stooges’ most famous song, I Wanna Be Your Dog, in live performances and within the soundtrack, encapsulating both the advantages and limitations of Jarmusch’s ode. The track is a brilliant showcase of the band’s seismic impact and singular talent, but it also inclines you to go elsewhere and simply listen to the music.