This is not a film about Iggy Pop. It’s not even a film about a man who loves Iggy Pop. It is an exploration of what it means to be alive, of what drives a person, and ultimately trying to capture the unexplainable.
Stooge is a film about a man called Robert, who is obsessed with another called Iggy Pop. Not simply a fan, Rob quickly denounces other obsessions such as alcohol and heroin as, “not addiction, that’s a hobby darling”. He is in no doubt that he has become addicted to The Stooges, and it’s lead singer Iggy Pop. It is perhaps in this self-awareness that the film becomes an introspection into his life, but more widely about what each person decides to dedicate their lives too – leading us to question, what makes a man more or less sane?
The film is, in parts, incredibly funny as well as incredibly heart-breaking. While Rob ponders early on as to how many girls Iggy Pop could have fit into his shower (claiming proudly that it would be at least two), the film is almost a man trying to get close to his idol as we try to understand him. As director Madeline Farley says in the Q&A afterwards, the film is “not funny at all actually, its deeply tragic but the only way anyone can understand the tragedy is through humour so that’s why the humour’s there. It’s actually very sad.” And as the film forages into a depths of depression and obsession, it is the humour that keeps the film from spiralling into something much darker. The humour feels much more jarring as the film progresses, but early on it is an integral part.
while Robert seemed to give up his whole life in his quest, how are our own normalised aims so different?
And, for a significant portion of the film, I did sit and wonder whether it was a mockumentary like The Office. The insights it provided, and ability to capture the bizarre, were so striking I thought it must have been created rather than captured. This was made even more so by the amazingly eloquent philosophising of Rob’s best friend Peter. Asking director Madeline Farley a few times throughout the film, “where does the film end?”, “How does it end?”, and even “it’s been a complete waste of time”. His brilliant insight into life has a scene in which he talks about the meaning, or lack of, of life while in a cemetery, explaining that life is the process of trying to have “a lot of fun filling the void”. Which is exactly what Rob, in his own – perhaps skewed – world view, is trying to achieve. Having Peter as a somewhat narrator or explainer throughout the film grounds it in its own particular explanation. Peter is undoubtedly a highlight of the film, and I left with a keen sense that I would like him to narrate my own life.
The documentary is on one level a superficial look at fandom, as Peter says afterwards of being a film where “a 50-year-old man clutching a pink flamingo following a 70-year-old man with his trousers halfway down his ankles.” But it goes so much further than that, with a look at the quirks of depression, as well as questioning how a person should live their life. While the film captures what can be declaimed as a ridiculous man, a man who is trying to (as one audience member said afterwards) “grow up”, it does not belittle or condescend. There is no air of pity for a man seemingly incapacitated by an addiction, it instead provided a stark and definitely human insight into Robert’s life. And while I did not go in thinking I would find anything in common with the protagonist, I found myself questioning the nature of everyone’s lives. Because while Robert seemed to give up his whole life in his quest, how are our own normalised aims so different?
it almost felt like our own search for completion on something that can never truly have an answer
The beauty in the film is this unwavering respect for Robert. That despite his oddities, he is someone to be viewed as an equal and not as simply the subject of a documentary. As we watch him getting closer and closer to meeting Iggy, it is hard not to root for him. And when he seems to verge on the edge of pushing past the bounds of strange into unacceptable, he himself brings himself back. As we explore his mind, so does he, in what is ultimately a struggle to understand himself in a very rational way.
Near the end of the film, when he almost passes the limit of what is proper, he says “I’m not supposed to be here”. It is this statement that can be applied to his whole situation, and it is his own self-awareness of his escapism that makes the film not simply a case study of an individual, but a look at why we do what we do. It is a fantastic film, simple but raw, captured by a talented Madeline Farley. And while the audience all asked what Rob is up to now after the showing, it almost felt like our own search for completion on something that can never truly have an answer, desperate to find out what it is to be human.
‘Stooge’ is now playing at the Raindance Film Festival 2017, taking place from 20th September to 1st October. Information and tickets here.
Image: Raindance Film Festival 2017