Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When You’re Strange overdoses on Doors drama

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 4:24 PM

click to enlarge STRANGE DAYS: Jim Morrison (from left), John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek
  • STRANGE DAYS: Jim Morrison (from left), John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek

Writer/director Tom DiCillo has fashioned an unremarkable documentary about one of America's most remarkable rock bands, the Doors. When You're Strange's visual odyssey details the life and times of the group. More specifically, DiCillo keeps a tight focus on vocalist Jim Morrison's shenanigans as he transforms from a shy poet too scared to face his audience, into a fully fledged Dionysian star; part Marquis de Sade, part Elvis Presley. Johnny Depp narrates the film, fact-checking Oliver Stone's embellishments from the 1991 film The Doors, with a real-time narrative.

The true value of DiCillo's doc is its use of original footage and sound bytes of the band, on stage and off, mixed with images capturing the social and political turmoil of the '60s. When You're Strange posits, almost by accident, that the Doors were a by-product of the times – an idea that deserves more attention. What's most irritating, though, is DiCillo's insistence on returning to a dramatic reenactment of Morrison racing through the desert on some sort of pilgrimage to the Joshua Tree. When combined with Depp's narration, and butted against actual footage of the group, the film feels contrived to the point of being unwatchable. The archival footage alone conveys the feeling of careening out of control with much more elegance.

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(Photo Courtesy Elektra Records)

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