When You’re Strange

the-doors-poster

B+

“Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors.”
-Jim Morrison

When You’re Strange is the latest documentary about The Doors. It will inform lifelong fans, as well as neophite stoners just tuning in to Jim’s jams. For the new inductee, the movie tells the story of the Doors’ rise and fall. Beginning with Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek meeting at UCLA film school and forming the band that would go on to be the voice of the 1960s youth movement.

A more experienced Doors fan will approach the film a little differently, having seen all this before. It’s the story heard over and over, the one already immortalized on the big screen by Oliver Stone in The Doors. Truthfully, when I think of Jim Morrison, what I’m really visualizing is Val Kilmer’s portrayal in said film.

The really great thing about this documentary is that it was put together from a giant collection of Doors’ archival footage. It replaces the idealized Hollywood story with facts. Director Tom DiCillo stated in an interview that he has never even seen Oliver Stone’s film, which adds a great deal of value to When You’re Strange. DiCillo’s fresh perspective, combined with real-life footage, allows interesting new details of The Doors’ story to emerge.

Johnny Depp‘s narration is outstanding. It feels like Depp has once again summoned Hunter S. Thompson to talk about one of his favorite acid-washed bands of the 60s. Depp is a welcomed addition, with flowing commentary like, “No matter how high Jim flies during their crazy performances, his band mates are always there to catch him and guide him back down to earth.”

Simply put, the most enjoyable aspect of When You’re Strange is watching Jim Morrison perform. That’s part of what made The Doors so successful; the audience feeds on Jim’s energy. There are many examples of this in the newly found footage: Jim on stage, Jim singing in the studio, or a candid glimpse of Jim smiling innocently for the camera, even rare footage of the infamous 1969 show in Miami, where Jim is accused of starting a riot, and exposing himself to the crowd. In the end, the film is what it is — a showcase of never-before-seen Doors footage, and a chance for aging hippies to once again bask in the glow of Jim Morrison’s energy.

Directed by Tom Dicillo

tags: the doors, tom dicillo, when you're strange

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