The Osterberg Weekend: The Cinematic Appearances of Iggy Pop and His Music
In a year that seems blood thirsty for musical talent (Lemmy, Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Leon Russell, Mose Allison and counting) it’s important to remember the world shakers and amplifier princes that are still among us. At least, as of this writing.
Former Black Flag lead vocalist and Thin Lizzy/Black Sabbath superfan, Henry Rollins, has called Iggy Pop (Formerly Iggy Stooge, Born James Osterberg) “the real King of Rock N’ Roll.”
One could make the argument that faux Royal titles are silly and meaningless and even so, Iggy, like a true American, has worked for whatever he has.
Nevertheless, Rollins is a rock n’ roll lifer who has released books about psychedelic godfather Roky Erickson and Iggy for his 2/13/61 publishing company, rereleased neglected classic albums by Alan Vega and Gang of Four on his now defunct reissue imprint ,Infinite Zero, and jams both the Fall and the Beasties on every one of his podcasts. The point being, when it comes to matters of the ear drum, Rollins knows his shit and if he says Iggy is King-might could be true.
However, this is a film blog and the Jim Jarmusch directed Iggy and the Stooges documentary, Gimme Danger, is now in limited release in theaters. (Yeah, every so often Iggy fucks around and rocks the Cineplex just as hard as he rocks everywhere else.)
That being the case, let us enjoy the Ig’ while we still got him by celebrating a few of his choicest movie roles and cameos.
10. Rock N’ Rule (1983)
On-line Pundit Elizabeth Renzetti recently penned an article in which she lamented “If Iggy Pop can’t make a living off his art, what chance do I have?”
One must retain a healthy incredulity about what one reads, after all, this “Heavy Metal” inspired Canadian animated musical fantasy beast made damn near $30 grand at the box office, (That does sound bad but $30 grand went a lot further in the mid ’80’s than it does today.) And Iggy is credited as singing voice for a character named “Mokswanna.”
So, one can only assume some of that modest windfall ended up in Iggy’s pay envelope.
Have a little faith, Ms. Renzetti.
9. Tank Girl (1995)
The 90’s were the decade when all the righteous riff-raff seemed to sweet talk their way past the bouncer, charm the pretty girl sitting alone at the bar and take over the culture at large: Homer Simpson, Bill Clinton, Nirvana, Quentin Tarantino and so on.
Viewed through that prism, you could imagine why a hipster friendly, big budget ($25 million- a good size budget by the standards of the day) cult comic book adaption about a punk rock heroine roaming a post apocalyptic sound stage in her tank should’ve been bigger heat at the box office.
Of course, upon closer inspection, the biggest recording artist of the ’90’s was Garth Brooks and the biggest TV show was Home Improvement. So, there’s a good chance that August decade was never as cool as it pretended.
Lack of societal cool wasn’t the only reason Tank Girl failed. If the performance of the lead actress Lori Petty, as well as the rest of the film, had been just a hair less obnoxious, maybe the line dancing set would’ve put their “Ropin’ the Wind” CD’s on pause long enough to come on down to the mall Cineplex in the same numbers that went slumming to check out “The Gimp” in action in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
No matter, WalMart America’s loss was Iggy’s gain.
Also, except for the production values, Tank Girl also suffered from lazy, uninspired film making. Perhaps sensing the slightness of their script, the film makers took a “If there’s a problem, throw a rockstar cameo at it” approach to bringing Tank Girl to the big screen.
Iggy gamely plays a mutant pedophile named “Rat Face” and Ice T plays some half kangaroo/half human freedom fighter, but the latter is really fodder for a different list.
8. Blood Orange (2016)
A lead role for Iggy Pop? Neat. I mean sure, the twice divorced Pop plays an aging rock star on the outs with his wife. But type casting is better than no casting.
In this film, Iggy’s wife is purloined by a younger, more famous, less talented rock star. Again, this seems like type casting. Lesser but more successful rockers have been upstaging Iggy with the squares in real life, for decades.
Maybe these young punks with their “new boots and contracts” never straight up steal the Ig’s ladies, but they steal just about everything else.
We’ll revisit this theme a little further on down the line.
7. Cry Baby (1990)
Wanna be ‘New Yorker’ types have always tried to justify their love of low culture at large and rock n’ roll in particular by painting the act of jacking the chords of “Louie, Louie” for the umpteenth time and riding said chords to Clearasil smeared glory as the act of Holy Fools that they are enjoying on so many more different levels than you are.
Filmmaker John Waters has never tried to justify his love of low culture to the intelligentsia. Waters loves rock n roll like the twelve year old girl he is at heart and gets right on down on the ground to shamelessly gnaw on dog excrement just like his Little Richard loving starlet, Divine.
Casting punk rockers in his films was also old hat for Waters. He had already cast the late ‘Dead Boys lead singer Stiv Bators in his 1980 film, Polyester.
Perhaps Bators would’ve played the part of “Belvideere Rickets” if he hadn’t of stepped out into Paris drive time traffic the same year this film was released. Nevertheless, Iggy seems very comfortable dropping right into the long running Waters freak show and acquits himself admirably.
6. Trainspotting (1996)
Yes, technically Iggy does not appear. in this film. Unless, you decide that Iggy is his music, then he’s every bit as an important a character to the Trainspotting as Ewan MacGregor’s “Renton” or Johnny Lee Miller’s “Sick Boy.”
Just as a lady producer famously found John Carpenter’s Halloween to have no terror in it when watching a cut of the film before the addition of Carpenter’s legendarily ominous film score, imagine how much less exciting this film would seem if the first time we we saw Renton and Spud running from the cops, Iggy’s Lust For Life, his solo Motown amphetamine rip wasn’t galloping along the sidewalk right beside the pair?
The subject of Iggy’s music also aids and abets the narrative, both as an example of what’s good and pure about Kevin McKidd’s character of Tommy’s life before he succumbs to heroin addiction and dies of AID’s, and as an example of what makes the detoxifying Renton so stodgy and anti-techno progressive “Ziggy Pop’s dead anyway.” (It’s a paraphrase that combines two different lines of dialogue for economy’s sake. I know it. You know it. Let’s both move on.)
When Tommy is a heroin free weight lifting enthusiast with a girlfriend that’s willing to ball him on VHS tape for posterity’s sake, his Iggy poster hangs proud and healthy from the plaster wall of his flat. Further down Tommy’s story arc apiece, when his girl won’t even accept a pet kitten as a gift, and he is a dying heroin addict that has “Shite for blood,” the Iggy poster seems as frayed and doomed as the character.
Iggy and his music isn’t just a character in Trainspotting, it’s the opium poppy fiber from which the overall H narrative thread is spun. Iggy maybe can’t use Trainspotting to stake a claim on the actor’s guild health insurance, but that’s really an unfortunate oversight.
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