'American Valhalla': Film Review
Iggy Pop recruits Josh Homme to co-create a new record in Homme and Andreas Neumann's rock-doc.
A danger-rock legend seeks rejuvenation via new collaborators in American Valhalla, a we're-not-worthy doc directed by Andreas Neumann and the young musician in question, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. It's all about Iggy Pop, of course — the eternal bad boy who returned to the hard stuff with Homme after making a curious detour into French chanson for a record or two — even if much of the making-of storytelling and perspective on the record's ensuing tour comes from the youngsters. Die-hard fans of either artist will find something to enjoy as the film continues its worldwide tour of theatrical bookings, but in video afterlife it will add little to Iggy lore.
The first film for both directors, it clearly underwent some mutations during and after production. How else to explain the puzzling sort-of presence of Anthony Bourdain, who conducts some musician interviews here, but barely does anything on camera and disappears entirely early in the film? The pic's real host is Homme, who bookends it with pompous wander-in-the-desert sequences, muttering in voiceover things like "time is not your friend."
Rather than speak to the camera about working with his hero, Homme reads from a journal of the experience, leaching much of the impact out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The documents we'd like to know more about aren't in Homme's notebook, but a FedEx envelope Pop sent him after they agreed to co-write what became the Post Pop Depression album: Handwritten notes jumbled with computer-printed lists, the little trove of ephemera seems especially concerned with recounting the time Pop spent working in Berlin with David Bowie, producing his two most enduring solo records, The Idiot and Lust for Life. We get enough of a peek to wish we were watching a documentary about this late-1970s project, then move on.
While Homme takes us through the recording sessions at a ramshackle studio in Joshua Tree, Calif., Pop gets some time to talk more generally about his career and his notorious persona. Some admissions ("I often feel overwhelmed") come as a bigger surprise than others ("I'm not a great guy. I'm selfish"), but all of this material engages the viewer.
After recording comes the question of a tour, and judging from the footage seen here, fans got their money's worth. With Homme & Co. in sharp matching suits and muscular musical shape, the shirtless frontman can strut without the kind of worries he reports having in recent years when fronting the Stooges — who evidently had the gall to believe they were in a more democratic band. This band knows its place, and understands Pop's best records well enough to put the material across in rooms as grand as London's Royal Albert Hall.
Production company: Eagle Rock Films
Distributors: More2Screen, Eagle Rock Films
Directors: Josh Homme, Andreas Neumann
Screenwriter: Joss Crowley
Producers: Joss Crowley, Josh Homme, Andreas Neumann
Executive producers: Geoff Kempin, Terry Shand, Kristen Welsh
Director of photography: Andreas Neumann
Editor: Tim Woolcott
Venue: Village East Cinemas