At first glance, Erik Lieshout, Michel Houellebecq and Iggy Pop don’t have a whole lot in common. Lieshout is a journalist and filmmaker; Houellebecq is the vicious novelist behind the startling best-seller Atomised; and Iggy Pop is the great punk stooge, the kind of abrasive talent who really needs no introduction.
So what, if anything, drew the three together? The answer is To Stay Alive – A Method, a by turns hilarious and haunting documentary helmed by Lieshout and starring Pop and Houellebecq, based on an essay written by the latter. The film takes an all-encompassing look at the intersection of art and survival, and features both fictionalised material and conversations between its two stars as they dissect their own success, and the cultural (and literal) starvation they had to endure to get where they are.
“Michel Houellebecq was raised by his grandparents,” Lieshout explains of his collaborator. “Not because his mother and father were dead, but because they thought they had more important things to do than to raise him. So Michel was not a very happy child … When he was 16 years old, he went to a record shop and bought the first album by The Stooges. It was just by accident – he liked the cover or something. He listened to it in the store, and by the end of the very first song ‘1969’ a deep emotion overcame him.
“Michel said to me recently, ‘At that very moment I realised I was no longer alone in this world.’” And that love goes both ways, Lieshout explains. “I know Iggy has read everything from Michel that is available in English, and I know Michel has written a novel while playing a 12-minute version of Iggy’s song ‘Open Up And Bleed’ on his computer on permanent repeat.”