My ongoing quest for Jewish stories at this year’s Cannes Film Festival is turning up slim pickings. Aside from the Israeli entries in the festival (the subject of my next report), there are few places to turn under the Côte d’Azur’s radiant sun for a heimisch taste of yiddishkeit. Was that a mezuzah I spotted in Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, adapted from stories by Alice Munro? It’s quite possible that I hallucinated that.
To my utter chagrin, I arrived too late for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s autobiographical “Endless Poetry,” screening in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar, which was one of the films I was looking forward to the most. The sequel to the Chilean director’s 2013 feature “The Dance of Reality,” which highlighted the director’s Jewish family life and early encounters with anti-Semitism.
The new film reportedly covers Jodorowsky’s years as a budding poet in 1960’s Chile, the period before he blossomed as a filmmaker with his cult masterpieces, the metaphysical western “El Topo” and the unclassifiable acid-trip “The Holy Mountain.” Despite the success of those early films, Jodorowsky has struggled for most of his career to get funding for his films, which is partially why Endless Poetry is only the 86-year-old director’s eighth film. This time around, he turned to crowdsourcing to raise half of the budget, which may suggest that the film will soon be available for online streaming (we should be so lucky).
Jodorowsky is an uncompromising auteur who has influenced generations of artists, and so it’s relieving to know that his “sacred begging,” as he called it in his emotional kickstarter pitch — tzedaka anyone? — was successful. Thanks to fans the world over, Jodorowsky can continue his project of self-mythologizing a career that has been utterly unique in the history of film.
Olivier Assayas is one of the few Jewish directors competing for the main festival prizes, but there’s absolutely no substance — Jewish or otherwise — to his fashion show-ghost story “Personal Shopper,” which the director developed around his star (and latest muse, heaven help us), Kristen Stewart.
To the disappointment of rebellious Jewish adolescents — and the relief of Jewish mothers — everywhere, James Osterberg, a.k.a Iggy Pop is not a Jew. However, Jim Jarmusch’s tenderly observed portrait of the legendary rocker, “Gimme Danger,” reveals unexpected Jewish sources of the evolution of Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
The film opened here as the festival’s midnight screening, a cult slot that last year went to Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Amy,” which went on to win this year’s Oscar for best documentary. Jarmusch’s film might not be as powerful as Kapadia’s, and in does in fact feel twenty minutes too long (“Amy” was over two hours, but didn’t feel it), but at least the film’s star could walk the red carpet alongside his director. Seeing the tall 63-year-old indie legend (who has another film, Paterson, in competition this year), with his shock of white hair and customary tuxedo alongside the 69-year musician – short, long-haired, wearing a blue suit with no shirt, was every bit as entertaining as the actual film.
In “Gimme Danger,” Pop reveals himself as a wonderfully charmer raconteur (who knew?), narrating the rise and fall and rise again of The Stooges. In addition to discussing an early flirtation with jazz in Chicago and how it ended (“I smoked a big joint by the river one day and realized I wasn’t black”) and why he stopped playing drums (“I was tired of seeing butts”), he also reveals an unlikely source of inspiration for his artistic persona: Milton Supman, better known as “Soupy Sales.” Along with “Howdy Dowdy,” “Lunch with Soupy Sales” was one of young Jimmy’s favorite shows and the improvised, slapstick nature of Supman’s shtick, a rapid-fire assault of gags, exerted a huge influence on Pop that is visible in the the anarchic mania of the Stooges act. Perhaps it was the relish with which Supman got a pie in the face (repeatedly), that made it possible for Pop to make the following deadpan comment during an early concert: “I’d like to thank the person who just threw a bottle at my head and nearly killed me.”
Although interviews and concert footage forms the bulk of “Gimme Danger,” Jarmusch also uses wacky South Park-style animation and old film clips. “The Three Stooges,” that great Jewish contribution to American comedy, appear throughout the film. Pop, doing a spot-on imitations, quotes his short conversation with Moe Howard, whom he approached about using the “Stooges” name for the band: “I don’t give a f—k what you call yourselves,” Howard said, “As long as it’s not The Three Stooges.”
A.J. Goldmann is a Berlin-based freelance critic and journalist.
This story "Of Iggy Pop, the Three Stooges and the Mezuzah in the New Almodovar Movie" was written by A.J. Goldmann.