Jim Jarmusch has a thing for outcasts. The characters in his films, like the lovelorn vampires in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) or the stoic assassin in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), tend to reside on society’s fringes, if they reside in society at all. Part of the joy of Jarmusch’s work is felt in watching his characters move within the offbeat world that they create for themselves. In the director’s latest film, the documentary Gimme Danger, he locates the origin of this particular fascination by examining the Stooges, the Detroit rock band that helped shape the future of music thanks in part to the dangerous and exhilarating behavior of the group’s leader, the sinewy icon that assuredly jumpstarted the director’s love of outsiders: Iggy Pop.

But Gimme Danger doesn’t have much to do with Jarmusch’s singular obsession with the band. Aside from an early and very brief appearance, in which he calls them “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever,” the director takes a backseat to Iggy and his co-Stooges: James Williamson, Dave Alexander, and brothers Scott and Ron Asheton. (Mike Watt, the noted Minutemen bassist who joined to band for some late-period gigs, is also featured.) Rather than a piece of fan service, the film is a detailed, albeit slightly dull, telling of the band’s legendary and tumultuous career, beginning—appropriately enough—at the end. Jarmusch opens with Iggy on the brink of collapse, gyrating and convulsing in front of an intrigued but clearly confused and unsettled audience. Having released three albums to exuberant critical acclaim but minimal fanfare, the Stooges are getting sloppy, even by their standards. They’re missing shows left and right, and the ones that actually happen are disastrous. By 1973, the drugs and alcohol take their toll, and the band calls it quits shortly thereafter.

This prelude gives way to the band’s early beginnings in Michigan, but the affect of witnessing them at their lowest moment lingers. Were it not for the generation of artists and musicians who followed the Stooges’ lead, their story, and subsequently Jarmusch’s film, could have ended there. But the director paints their demise as a sort of cosmic triumph. The band’s ability to outlast their own destruction speaks to the mythic power that seemed to envelop them, the kind that surely transfixed a young Jarmusch. The Stooges’ artistic approach was creation born from destruction, and the film’s structural design proves that their commercial failure only added to their raw power. As the saying goes: Burn out, not fade away.

Not much else in Gimme Danger resembles the Stooges’ unique aesthetic—or Jarmusch’s, for that matter. Relying on archival 16mm footage and an array of animated vignettes that illustrates the stuff that didn’t make it on film, the director settles into a conventional documentary style that often feels at odds with the fiery subject on display. It could be that Jarmusch is so devoted to the band that he simply refused to let anything else get in the way. Indeed, unlike other rock-docs, which bring in an array of famous faces for talking head interviews that shower a subject with abundant and ultimately redundant praise, Gimme Danger keeps the testimonials limited. Other than the Stooges themselves, the only people who speak on camera are the Ashetons’ sister, Kathy, and the band’s longtime manager, Danny Fields. Not only does this give the material a sense of authenticity, it speaks to Jarmusch’s refreshing eschewal of celebrity. This approach applies to his subjects, too. Iggy’s famed solo career, in which he collaborated extensively with David Bowie and released classic albums like The Idiot and Lust for Life, proves merely a footnote as Jarmusch jumps directly to the band’s successful and redemptive 2003 reunion. Gimme Danger, in addition to being a definitive Stooges film, is a defiant one.

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