Iggy Pop has been busy in 2016 cementing his legacy.
Earlier this year, the still-shirtless 69-year-old rocker released a vital solo album, Post Pop Depression, which he implied would be his last, and went on a tour, including a stop at the Academy of Music that drew only from his lengthy solo career.
Now it's time to pay attention to the Stooges, the anarchic, proto-punk psychedelic garage band he made his reputation with on three vastly influential albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
That period -- and the band's reunion in the early aughts -- is the focus of Gimme Danger, a journalistic valentine from Stooges fan Jim Jarmusch to his favorite band.
The director of Paterson and Stranger Than Paradise, who previously cast the rock star in his films Dead Man (1995) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), emphasizes the bandleader's theatrical persona by crediting him under his given name: "James Osterberg as Iggy Pop."
While Iggy has always been the most intensely physical of performers, a former drummer who pushes the band relentlessly forward with his convulsive gyrating, Gimme Danger also puts Iggy the Thinker on full display.
The fairly conventional rock doc is built around lengthy interviews with a wry, charming Iggy, with other band members included as needed (all now dead except guitarist James Williamson) . It shows how Iggy's primal approach was always carefully considered.
The author of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Search and Destroy," who, the film argues, invented stage diving and was once fond of rolling around in broken glass, is also an intellectual. His performance style is Dionysian rather than Apollonian, he says. He talks about how, in long-haired bandmates (and fellow Ann Arbor, Mich., natives) Scott and Ron Asheton, "I found primitive man."
The Stooges initially had the word psychedelic in their name, but Iggy is contemptuous of what he sees as the soft-headed sentiments of the Flower Power groups that were popular during his band's early, obscure days. "That stuff smells," he says.
Amusingly, Iggy's stage persona was influenced by Howdy Doody and by Hollywood depictions of bare-chested Egyptian pharaohs. Experimental musicians like Harry Partch and Sun Ra shaped his songwriting, and so did Soupy Sales. The TV host urged children to write him letters of no more than 25 words. Sounds like a good rule for songwriting, the young tunesmith decided.
Raised in a trailer park, Iggy recounts a tale about an attempt to tip over his parents' home, just for laughs, by some preppy would-be friends whose approval he'd been seeking. (It's one of several interludes whimsically animated by James Kerr.) That turned out to be a crucial moment in the development of punk rebellion. "Ever since," he says with a glint in his eye, "I've been out to get 'em."
Gimme Danger drags some toward the end as it digs into the reunion years. The decision to skip over the entirety of the solo phase is a little jarring. And while the performance footage included is riveting, more music would have been welcome. But Jarmusch's movie serves both as a fine intro to one of rock's great bands and as a window for longtime fans into what makes Iggy tick.
3 1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Jim Jarmusch. With Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Danny Fields, Nico. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 48 mins.
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse.