Have you ever loved a band so much that you’d sell your house to see them at any venue around the globe for 30 years? Probably not, but if you’re Robert Pargiter, this is the norm, and it’s all about one, illusive god of rock and roll; Iggy Pop. After first seeing him perform with his band The Stooges in 1979, Pargiter never grew up, and chased the thrill of witnessing his favourite band wherever the wind blew. Now, in Stooge, documentary filmmaker Madeline Farley takes us on the epic odyssey of Robert’s quest to meet the rockstar, taking him to San Fransisco, Miami, and of course, Salford. Stooge is a truly heartwarming story of one man’s passion, and a tragically funny testament to keeping the dream alive, no matter who, or how old, you really are.
We first meet rob in his office, which is fully decked out with Iggy and The Stooges memorabilia. Right off the bat, its clear that Rob is a magnetic presence on screen. His devotion to a group of musicians is just the first thing, because throughout the first half an hour, we learn that Rob is essentially a stand up comedian when he’s on camera, but unknowingly so. His natural wit and likability almost makes it feel like he’s reading from a script written by Graham Linehan, and coupled with his childlike enthusiasm, it’s a joy to watch.
Thankfully, Farley manages to find a great balance between fly-on-the-wall and participant. It allows Robert to make his own path, which is equal to a kid in a candy store when he’s permitted to explore the house The Stooges partied in during the 70’s, and create the narrative as the film goes along. Indeed, in the post film Q&A, Farley stated that there was no structure in place, and she was “just as in the dark as the audience”, allowing us to be even more magnetised to Robert’s onscreen presence, just waiting to see what he’ll do next.
With a non-linear narrative, a lot of jumping between time and location happens, in a non convoluted way. The sequences that take us back to London are some of the funniest, as we are introduced to Rob’s best friend Peter. The chemistry seen between the two is incredibly touching and relatable, as we soon realise that Peter is just as childlike as Rob, but in different ways. Thought out their conversations, Peter states that he “doesn’t know much about The Stooges”, or even really likes them. He even at one point has a firm talk with Rob about how he needs to realise that he’s let this obsession take over his life and he needs to let it go. However, he, like Robert, hasn’t had a job since their teenage years. He’s an artsy eccentric type, who, in his sweet helping way, seems to answer any and all problems with philosophy (and after talking to him in the post film Q&A, it proved to not just be in the film). Although he tries to bring Rob out of his trek, he, in some ways, seems to have his head in the clouds just as much, leading to some rather brilliant scenes.
This crusade to get as close to Pop as possible raises many questions throughout the film, voiced ethereally by Farley. What does he intend to say to Iggy when he meets him? Will he ever get the gifts he’s brought to him? In answer to all of this, Rob seems almost as confused as we are, until he delivers a perfect answer; “Well, I think the first thing I’d say is ‘Would you like to play some ping pong? I don’t think they’ve got a table here, how about back in London?’”. And with that, the ambiguity continues. Following Iggy everywhere from his London hotel to his Miami house, we soon get the sense that Rob doesn’t want to take this as far as we, or indeed, Farley, thinks. What would happen if he were to burst that bubble? Destroy the illusion he has built up in his head for the past 30 years?
For a film so steeped in American punk culture, it manages to still remain quintessentially British, and rightly so. The enigmatic personality it carries is undeniable, and with subtly great comedically timed editing, the film flows by easily. However, with a perfectly bittersweet ending, reaches a satisfaction that comes without needing more. Stooge is essential viewing not just for fans of Iggy Pop, but for fans of soul, passion, and above all, friendship. Take it from someone who’s seen Iggy live and initially hated it. You’ll find a brand new ‘Lust For Life’ in the mythology just yet.