VOD Review: Gimme Danger
This Jim Jarmusch directed documentary follows the exploits of the proto-Punk rockers Iggy and the Stooges. While the film is entertaining, it is less a historical record and more of a campfire story told by Iggy Pop.
It’s kind of odd that I’m the person reviewing Gimme Danger. Neil is a much bigger fan of Iggy Pop than I ever was, and Erik is the one that likes Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog, Dead Man, Broken Flowers). But I had something I wanted to say about documentaries, and this film gives me the perfect vehicle. So here we are.
Gimme Danger (2016)
Gimme Danger follows the rise and fall of the rock band Iggy and The Stooges. Credited by many as one of the first bands to ignite Punk Rock, The Stooges were chaos made (mutilated) flesh. The film covers the band from their formation in 1967 to their infamous flame-out in 1974; it then picks back up with the band’s reformation in 2003.
The film’s style is mostly sit down interviews inter-cut with concert footage and stop motion cartoon interpretations of events in the band’s brief life. The film is a brisk 108 minutes, and keeps things pretty snappy. It rarely lets the outside world in, focusing like a laser on the band-mate’s accounting of events. This is both Gimme Danger’s greatest strength and it biggest flaw.
All Iggy, All the Time
Time has not been kind to most of the Stooges. Dave Alexander as well as Ron and Scott Asheton are… well… dead. Any of their input is taken from archival footage. Even that was less than illuminating. All the years of drinking and drugs (most notably heroin), seemed to have left most of them (Scott in particular) addled. As such, Iggy Pop’s version of events gets the lion’s share of the screen time. Iggy is a fairly fascinating guy, as front-men are wont to be, but it does paint a biased picture.
Gimme Danger is entertaining if you are a fan of rock, punk, or just celebrity excess. The music is good, if you like The Stooges, and if not… why are you watching this in the first place? Jim Jarmusch must be a fan of the band, because I can’t see why he would make this biopic if he wasn’t. The film doesn’t really have much of his unique style, so I can’t recommend Gimme Danger for Jarmusch fans.
Alright, the review proper is finished, now I can rant.
PSA: Most Documentaries are Bullshit
We don’t cover a ton of documentaries at Deluxe Video Online. They are niche fare, and unless they are a topic we are keenly interested in, most don’t even ping our radars. Sorry Ken Burns, I’m just not THAT into baseball. The big reason I don’t personally watch or review documentaries is that most of them are just Op-Ed’s using the Documentary label to add credibility to whatever agenda the documentarian is trying to push.
Gimme Danger works as entertainment, but it’s very clearly a biased accounting of the band. You get that a lot these days: docs cherry picking their sources to sell a certain view. With biopics it’s relatively harmless – usually just some pop icon trying to write his own annals into history. Political, social, or scientific documentaries? That becomes dangerous.
With many documentaries, the “experts” giving interviews become stand ins for citations. The spotlight bumps them up from being just character witnesses to expert testimony. Most viewers aren’t going to pause the movie, fire up the computer, and go look up the speaker’s CV. As such, you can throw any quack into a lab coat, or any social troglodyte into a suit and tie and mimic respectability. Documentaries become opinion pieces masquerading as research papers.
Rather than spend a bunch of time debunking documentaries, I just avoid them on principle. Biopics and historical accounts tend to be safe, but I’d be very skeptical of anything else. A good rule of thumb: gossipy interviews about JFK’s love life = sure, why not? Tinfoil hat theories about JFK being a reptilian overlord = avoid like the plague (unless you want a laugh).