To Stay Alive: A Method – Dir: Erik Lieshout, Arno Hagars & Renier van Brummelen (NZIFF)


“A dead poet does not write”. Iggy Pop reads the words of Michel Houellecq in this film that addresses the issue of struggling artists and their mental health.

Iggy is reading from Houellecq’s 1991 essay, To Stay Alive. The author is a somewhat controversial French novelist, filmmaker and poet. To Stay Alive was published the same year as Houellecq’s biographical essay on HP Lovecraft titled Against The World, Against Life.

In the past few years, Michel and Iggy have formed something of a mutual appreciation society. Houellecq was a Stooges fans since he was a teenager, while Michel’s writing, particularly his novel The Possibility Of An Island influenced Iggy’s 2009 French-sung jazz album, Preliminaires.

So, it was natural that the two would get together.

For those wanting to hear Iggy rock out to I Wanna Be Your Dog, this may not be the film for you.

As Iggy, who has had his share of problems with mental health, self-mutilation and addiction, reads from Houellecq’s essay, we meet several struggling, marginalized artists including 59 year-old Jerome, 49 year-old Robert and 31 year-old Anne Claire, all of whom are finding it difficult to create, or even exist, in the world.

Iggy and Michel meet up at Michel’s grandmother’s house and have a heart-to-heart as well.

Occasionally Iggy does sing, usually acapella or accompanied by his own acoustic guitar.

But this is not a music documentary, but rather a film about people trying to make music, or paint, or sculpture, while trying to make it through another day.

It’s been described as “a feel-good film on suffering”.

Iggy winds up being an inspired choice to front this film. Just looking at his 70-year-old, deeply carved face is enough to carry a movie.

With all the discussion going around about youth suicide and mental health care for those in our artistic community, this film comes around just when we need it.

Let’s hope it helps.

Marty Duda