'When You're Strange': The Doors Speak For Themselves
Posted 10 May 2010 - 10:25 AM
James Parker - James Parker is an Atlantic contributing editor.
May 10 2010, 8:46 AM ET
'When You're Strange': The Doors Speak For Themselves
So I went to see the new documentary about the Doors, When You're Strange, directed by Tom DiCillo. There can never be enough documentaries about the Doors, in my opinion - the band is a fissure in the American psyche, into which you can delve limitlessly while Ray Manzarek's keyboard goes peedle-eedle-eedle. And was there ever a rock star more beautiful than Jim Morrison? Rather ballsily, DiCillo in his movie has elected to use no talking heads at all. None of the usual rock'n'roll greybeards, or the drawling insiders; no "You see, what you have to understand about Jim..."
Instead we are invited into a kind of Doorsian fugue-state, via revelatory and largely-unseen footage of the young god Morrison swimming in rockpools, driving through the desert, kneeling by a dying coyote, touching the wound of an injured fan backstage (a miracle does not occur), and generally lurching pelvically about as if being dragged through the world by a spirit-hand on his belt-buckle. (We do hear one voice: that of Johnny Depp, who provides muttering, dourly hep narration along the lines of "It was the 60s. The counterculture was exploding.")
I was on board with DiCillo's no-heads policy until we came to a sequence from a concert that the Doors were playing with the Who. Suddenly I longed for the droll perspective of Who guitarist Pete Townshend: I wanted to see Townshend's head fill the frame, and to hear him cantankerising in his nasal English way. "Morrison was a tit," he might have said. "A tit. We all wanted to strangle him! Except for Keith, who wanted to comb his hair."
Another fascinating aspect of the movie, to me, was the images it provided of the pre-industrialized stadium rock show. We all know what a big show looks like these days: the fenced-off spaces, the crash barriers, the stoical, yellow-shirted bouncers with their ears plugged, palms up for the next crowdsurfer. When You're Strange shows us the Doors pushing through a crowd to get to the stage, high-shouldered and nervously carrying their instruments.
And then things get Doors-specific: Morrison, at the microphone, is literally ringed by cops - awkward, shapeless cops up on stage with their thumbs in their belts, staring around bullishly, chewing gum, not knowing quite what to do. Will the crazy singer say FUCK or brandish his organ? Will deranged girls tear him to pieces and then eat him? Morrison, for his part, looks delighted with this freshly-created area of ritual space; inside the circle of policemen he capers and leaps and swoons like Dionysus. Faintly ridiculous, utterly enthralling.
When You're Strange will be on PBS on Wednesday at 9 p.m. (ET) Tune out Johnny Depp's narration if you can—it's a streak of prose, when the rest of the film is poetry.
Posted 11 May 2010 - 05:08 AM
L. Kent Wolgamott
Monday, May 10, 2010 8:11 pm
Doors' Film A Must See For Fans
The Doors, in my view, have long been the most overrated band in rock history. But that doesn't diminish the importance of and interest in the group that, to some measure, defined the darker edge of the late '60s.
"The Doors: When You're Strange," which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NET1, is the latest film about the band and, from what I've seen, the best yet. That is because director Tom DiCillo defies convention and uses only original footage of the band and the narration of Johnny Depp to tell the story of the Doors.
That there is so much film of the Doors comes as no surprise. Singer Jim Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek met in 1965 in film school and clearly encouraged cameras to record most everything the band did, from concerts to recording sessions to just hanging out.
By eschewing the talking-head experts and grizzled veterans recounting their adventures of more than four decades ago, DiCillo spares us the gag-inducing mythologizing that has surrounded the Doors since Morrison died in 1971 at age 27.
The opposite side of that coin, however, is that we are forced to "believe" the narration, which, of course, has a point of view and some points that could be disputed.
But the footage - save for the re-creation of Morrison driving around Southern California in a late '60s Mustang - is fascinating. In particular, the concert shots are revelatory, whether in clubs or in stadiums and arenas where things were far less controlled than they are today.
The music sometimes includes truncated versions of songs. But most of the important songs get their own montage, which can be a bit much when DiCillo tries to conflate the Doors with the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War.
But the conflation fits the spirit of some of the Doors' songs, most notably "The End," which has taken on a far different feel now than it did when Morrison wrote it about breaking up with his girlfriend. The film also wisely notes that guitarist Robby Krieger wrote many of the Doors' songs, including "Light My Fire."
"The Doors: When You're Strange" isn't going to change any minds about the Doors. But fans of the band or Morrison, and those drawn to the late '60s, will be rewarded in viewing the 90-minute film.
New York Daily News
Tuesday, May 11th 2010, 4:00 AM
David Hinckley, Daily News Staff Writer
Tom DiCillo's 'When You're Strange' is unflattering for Jim Morrison, but offers no new insight
"When You're Strange," Wednesday night at 9 on PBS
The reasons to watch filmmaker Tom DiCillo's new documentary on the Doors lie more in the small pictures than the big one.
Don't watch it, for instance, hoping to learn whether their late lead singer, Jim Morrison, was a cosmic prophet or just another rock star burnout.
DiCillo admits he can't answer that one, and that's okay. He's not the first Doors biographer to hit the wall there, and it may be that no single Doors or Morrison summation will ever capture the whole scope of their complex lives.
DiCillo offers more a chronological trip through moments in their 54-month career, from the infamous indecency bust in Miami to dozens of seemingly ordinary scenes that range from a moody Morrison drinking in his room to odd shots of people diving into a swimming hole and an occasional rehearsal scene.
It's not surprising that various Doors, family and friends would have sometimes packed cameras, since Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek met at film school.
The footage that DiCillo gathered, however, isn't part of any organized film. Most of it seems utterly random, and in many cases DiCillo has just inserted it chronologically.
Much of it doesn't flatter Morrison, who comes off as an oblivious, spoiled, often posturing rock star who refuses to heed the good counsel of his concerned bandmates and his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, to take his foot off the gas.
Other biographers have suggested Courson, in particular, wasn't necessarily his best influence. But DiCillo seems more concerned about how Morrison's behavior jerked the band around, and ultimately fans as well.
While his two arrests for onstage behavior seem as questionable now as they did at the time, there's no sense that he was trying to deliver any coherent message about artistic freedom. Much of what he was doing, in this portrait, feels like a man just thrashing around.
The film is kinder to the Doors as a band. They may never have completely fused rock, jazz, poetry and film, but they created some fine music in their quest. They proved top-40 tunes could coexist with longer, artsier songs that in the hands of so many other bands became just tedious.
DiCillo spends considerable time recalling the turmoil of the times, and suggesting the Doors reflected all that. In the end, though, Morrison comes off as oddly detached, a man driven and plagued by either a cosmic mission or a bottle of whisky or both.
The film ends when Morrison died in 1971, despite a bizarre "Eddie and the Cruisers" vignette in which he seems to hear his death report on the radio.
None of the Doors or anyone else is interviewed to look back, and that's okay. What happened in those 54 months, a short strange trip, speaks for itself.
Posted 11 May 2010 - 06:29 AM
Yes the artists were sometimes bigger than life but that in no way diminishes the art that they created.
This goes to the heart of what I felt wrong with the film as it tries to engage the wider audience and in the process loses the audience it is aimed for in a retelling of NOHGOA.
We as a race seem unable to get past the unkempt unwashed rocker persona with it's baggage of drugs groupies and huge quantities of alcohol that encapsulates the rock music form and wallow in a mire of sensation rather than gauge the work as an art form that has produced a great deal of incredible music over a 50 year period.
Using the word 'overrated' is as lazy as using the word 'pretentious'.
Was Beethoven overrated? He was a bit of a mad uncouth bastard in his day.
Is Wagner just a pretentious arce? I bet plenty back in the 19th century wondered what the fuck HE was on about.
The trouble I think with our rockers is that most survive their twenties and live to become pathetic parodies of themselves and that clouds the issue of the worth of their art.
We tend to forget that the pioneers of classical music were looked upon as a bit punky back in their day but History presents now a rather sanitised view of them.
Maybe in 50 or 100 years someone will look at The Doors and their contemporary’s in the same way as artists instead of insane bastards.
It's as I posed on the Doors Legacy thread. As each decade passes we lose so much of The History of the band and are left with the sensation.
DiCillo had a chance to put this imbalance right but instead he too suffered from a dose of conflation as he confuses reality from fiction and invents stuff to sound cool.
Ultimately losing much of the truth in an analysis based on wishing to be popular with a particular set of people rather than trying to explore the band as artists instead of icons.
I had hoped for so much with his film but as with much of The Doors in the 21st century was disappointed.
The ambiguity of The Doors story can obviously lead to misinterpretation and exploitation as in most of the documentary and Hollywood efforts so far.
But given the amount of access DiCillo had one would have expected him to at least search out the soul of The Doors rather than it's shirttails.
Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:01 AM
REVIEW: ‘When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors’
By Anne Moore
Published May 11, 2010
The Doors were often called, by critics and fans alike, pretentious, or they were praised as the greatest rock band that ever, well, rocked. They are/were… neither/both…
The Doors are/were a unique group perfectly suited for the difficult, but amazing, period of history (1965-1971) in which they participated. They aspired to do something special, not realizing at the time how insightful they actually are/were.
When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, tries to accomplish something different in presenting their history, and in most cases succeeds. The film, directed and written by Tom DiCillo (Johnny Suede, Delirious), and narrated by Johnny Depp will be featured on most PBS stations as part of that network’s acclaimed American Masters series on May 12.
While the band was actually made up of four independently brilliant musicians, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, percussionist John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and of course singer Jim Morrison, it’s hard not to see this as another documentary on Jim Morrison and The Doors — with the emphasis as usual on Morrison.
The documentary, however, uniquely benefits from DiCillo’s incorporation of a treasure trove of archival photos and original footage shot during The Doors’ formation in 1965 to Morrison’s death in 1971. Highlighting When You’re Strange are outtakes from HWY, a film that Morrison and his UCLA film buddies shot in early 1969. The director also used another film produced by The Doors, Feast of Friends, an on-the-road journal filled with concerts, recording sessions and rehearsal footage. Both films have never been officially released, although bits and pieces of bootleg versions can be found for sale or posted on the Internet. HWY was apparently only shown once at a film festival. Feast of Friends won an award at the Atlanta Film Festival in 1969 and was also shown at a midnight screening at the San Francisco Film Festival later that same year where the audience greeted it with boos. Feast or famine (pun intended).
Johnny Depp’s low-key narration doesn’t distract from the material, which is very appreciated.
When You’re Strange does try to take an alternative approach to The Doors, given the unique opportunities and material available. Strangely, the two biggest overall criticisms I’ve seen are that there are no “talking heads” giving opinions, plus several critics cite as extraneous the included moments of 1960’s history: Viet Nam, Kent State, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. If that’s to imply they’re not relevant to a documentary about The Doors, then I wonder what these people have been listening to and with what comprehension.
As Jeff Jampol, Manager of The Doors, clarifies, “We also made a conscious decision together with Tom not to use any talking-head interviews, no new footage in this movie, the entire thing, front to back. Because, I mean, we’re close to it, but you get pulled into this era; and all of a sudden, you’re there, and the magic comes alive. Nobody wanted to interrupt that with some talking heads speaking about The Doors in the past tense.”
Producer Dick Wolf also explains some of their final decisions to include key historic political and cultural footage. “It’s also why all of us are so excited about it being on PBS and part of the American Masters series, because what it has done de facto is it makes it the document of record of not only The Doors, but one of the major documents of record of the late ’60s, because it is very rare to see contemporaneous footage from that era that makes any sense. You know, if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there, which is unfortunately true for many of us, but this film does remind you.”
When You’re Strange should please all but the most die-hard Doors’ fans, and will probably turn a few new people on to the music and the magic of The Doors.
I was a music journalist in Los Angeles during this era and saw The Doors perform from the early days at the Whisky, to the Forum and Aquarius concerts, to their last local performance at the Long Beach Arena. So I thoroughly enjoyed reliving those memories, even though the film makers did get a few facts wrong and played around with some historic continuity, but most viewers probably won’t notice, or care. What did catch me by surprise, a bit more than halfway through the film, is a shot of poet Michael McClure giving a one-finger salute. Behind him is Morrison, carrying a six-pack of beer, and behind him is me. That photo was snapped in July 1969 backstage during a concert at The Cow Palace, taken by The Flower Princess, a local Northern California writer. Some Doors’ web sites have mislabeled the girl as Pamela Courson, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, but that’s unequivocally me, in one of the few pictures I have of Jim and myself. But that’s another story…or two.
American Masters: When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors on most PBS stations May 12. Check your local listings for time.
May 11, 2010 10:31 AM
DVR alert: Doors doc 'When You're Strange' airs tomorrow on PBS
You've probably read about When You're Strange on this blog a few times. The film is the first full-length documentary to chronicle the career of The Doors. It's also narrated by Johnny Depp (nice bonus).
If the flick hasn't come through your town yet, no worries: PBS airs it as part of its American Masters series tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET.
The network has posted several video extras, including interviews with Jim Morrison's father and sister.
Admiral George S. Morrison talks about his son's early career:
OK, they've got a little rock band and they're making some headway, that's fine. But when he turned up on the national TV ... why, I was amazed. I didn't have any idea of the talent he had as an entertainer. I still feel that his talent was not vocal in the classic term, but that he was an entertainer.
Check your listings for schedule info. When You're Strange is still playing in select theaters, and a soundtrack featuring live performances, rarities and poetry is available on Rhino.
Posted 12 May 2010 - 04:08 AM
Last Updated: May 11, 2010 1:28pm
By BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency
Doors Doc Looks At Self Destruction
When celebrities die young, a public fascination endures that often has little to do with the artist’s work.
So we asked John Densmore, drummer for the Doors, if the lingering pop-culture obsession with deceased singer Jim Morrison actually is a distraction to the band’s musical legacy, or if the two complement each other.
“Creativity sometimes comes in the same package with self-destruction,” Densmore said. “Dionysus and Apollo.
“It doesn’t have to. Picasso lived to 90. In Jim’s case, 27 was it.
“And so I look to him now, as the years go by, the more I feel it’s just his destiny to have this quick shooting star and make a big impact.”
That big impact is chronicled in When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors, which airs on most PBS affiliates on Wednesday as part of the American Masters series. A version of the film got a theatrical release in some Canadian markets last month.
When You’re Strange is narrated by Johnny Depp, directed by Tom DiCillo and produced by Dick Wolf (Law & Order).
“It’s all tangled up, you know, his self-destruction,” continued Densmore, referring to Morrison, who died in 1971. “There’s my example of how he’s really down, and then he goes and writes these words about how lonely he felt (resulting in the song People are Strange).
“That’s channelling the angst in the muse into magic. So it’s all tangled.”
Wednesday, May 12 2010
When Your Strange Looks At Doors, Morrison Fresh Sensibility, Footage
Mr. Mojo rises all the time, or he tries to. Jim Morrison, shirtless and arms outstretched, is still a dorm-room poster, sort of like the philosopher-stoner's decorative crucifix. The flowers and poems still collect at his Paris grave site. The music of the Doors eternally conjures up an apocalyptically cool Los Angeles vibe.
And to think, if Morrison were alive, he'd be 66 and guest-mentoring on "American Idol" or something. Perish the thought. Soon enough (next year), it will be four decades since Morrison died in a bathtub. More startling, somehow, is that it's been almost 20 years since Val Kilmer played Morrison in Oliver Stone's mediocre biopic, "The Doors."
Filmmaker Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors" cannot lay claim to any new thoughts about (or meaning to) the Doors' 54-month journey together in the late 1960s and early '70s -- a journey that, we are told by narrator Johnny Depp, resulted in 80 million records sold. "When You're Strange" made the film-circuit rounds last year and has its TV debut Wednesday night on PBS's "American Experience."
What DiCillo has (and, really, all anyone wants from '60s rockumentaries anymore) is lots and lots of terrific footage, much of it previously unseen. The Doors, whose members met in UCLA film school, were nothing if not well filmed. There are also pristine and arresting outtakes from Morrison's own stab at filmmaking, a 1969 arthouse project called "HWY: An American Pastoral." So clean is this print of "HWY" that viewers at film festivals interpreted it as DiCillo's freshly filmed reenactment of Morrison's druggy descent into the metaphorical desert. (Nope, that's actually Morrison, in his own film.)
"When You're Strange" is apparently the product of a rare detente in post-Doors relations among the band's surviving members and the Morrison estate, and it aims to add scope and definition to the typical Icarus story of fame and ego (and substance abuse, and the Miami indecent-exposure arrest) in which every Doors biographical project gets mired.
Although "When You're Strange" is loaded with hokey statements about the '60s youth movement (Depp's narration bogs down with such lines as "This much is true: You can't burn out if you're not on fire"), it does succeed in looking at the Doors with a fresh sensibility.
It also takes time to talk about the music -- how there was no bass guitar, and how they made up for that with John Densmore's drum style and the jazz-trained Ray Manzarek's dual keyboards, and how Robby Krieger's flamenco-esque guitar stylings further defined the unmistakable sound. (Point being, it wasn't all Morrison, not by a long stretch.)
"Fact is, the music is strange," Depp tells us. "It is music for the different, the uninvited. It carries the listener into the shadowy realm of a dream."
If, like me, you find most efforts to lionize Morrison to be rather tedious exercises in poet-rock mythology, "When You're Strange" offers a more realistic telling of the fast track to fame. If nothing else, the footage is an absorbing visual voyage into late-'60s American life -- populated as it is with TWA airliners, bouffanted publicists, Standard filling stations and gawky teenagers in chunky eyewear who are all reaching out to touch Morrison.
"I don't like the Beee-atles," one teenager proclaims in a Noo-Yawk accent. "The Dawahs are much betta."
When You're Strange:
A Film About the Doors
(90 minutes) airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday on WETA and MPT
Winnipeg Free Press
May 12 2010 1:00am
PBS Takes Fascinating Ride On Morrison's, Doors' Storm
2"And as I look at him now, as the years go by, I feel even more that it was his destiny to be this quick shooting star and make a big impact. It's all tangled up in his self-destruction."
When Densmore met with TV critics during this past winter's edition of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles, he spoke openly about how frontman Jim Morrison's ultimately unsuccessful battle with his inner demons affected the band's fortunes while at the same time defining The Doors as one of the most unique and influential rock acts of all time.
Their story is revisited this week in the PBS/American Masters presentation of When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors, which airs tonight at 8 on the U.S. public broadcaster. Produced by TV veteran Dick Wolf (Law & Order) and narrated by Johnny Depp, the 90-minute documentary employs some stunning film footage -- much of which has rarely been seen -- to create an impressively intimate portrait of the band and its often-problematic lead singer.
As a historical documentary, When You're Strange is far from comprehensive. But as a filmic examination of The Doors' artistic inclinations, musical inspirations and frequent, Morrison-induced in-concert implosions, it could hardly be more fascinating.
"Remember, Ray (Manzarek) and Jim Morrison met in film school at UCLA," said former Doors manager Jeff Jampol, who also served as a producer on the film. "Ray got his master's in film, and Jim got his bachelor's in film, and they had a couple of classmates, Paul Ferrara and Frank Lisciandro, who were also very interested in film.
"So when The Doors went on their first tour, they took Frank and Paul with them to film the whole tour, to film things offstage and to film things in between. So we have this beautiful visual documentation of that time in '67, '68 and '69, when for most bands from that era, there's very little documentation."
In addition to its amazing concert footage, When You're Strange also includes several lengthy passages from film projects that Morrison and his contemporaries worked on during the same time period -- including an extended excerpt from a short film, Highway, which features the singer as a drifter hitchhiking his way across the U.S. Southwest.
The film stock has been so well restored that it looks like it could have been shot yesterday, which gives the many scenes in which Morrison is featured a surreal and eerie quality.
When You're Strange doesn't really try to settle the eternal question of whether Morrison was a genius, shaman-like poet or a spoiled brat bent on self-destruction, but it does give viewers quite a bit of new evidence to shape their own conclusions on the matter.
Densmore said he's glad the film includes footage of the singer during the band's early period, before the darkness that eventually enveloped him had fully descended.
"One thing I see in this film that is not in Oliver (Stone)'s movie (The Doors) is that there's some humour in here, and lightness," he said. "You see young Jim, and that pleases me because he was a blast in the beginning, before his self-destruction kicked in."
When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors
Narrated by Johnny Depp
Tonight at 8
New York Post
Last Updated: 2:19 AM, May 12, 2010
'Hello, I Love You' Super Doors Rock-Doc
The Doors, it is said, was like no band that ever came before or after.
After you watch "When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors," premiering tonight on PBS' "American Masters" series, you might want to say the same about the documentary made about them.
Indie filmmaker Tom DiCillo, together with Dick Wolf (of the "Law & Order" franchise), has created something not just groundbreaking but, well, strange.
OK, admittedly it can't get much stranger than poet/hunk Jim Morrison, who was an out-of-control, generally stoned drunkard whose obscene performances thrilled and frightened his fans, all at the same time.
"American Masters" The Doors.
But unlike the familiar TV documentary format, DiCillo uses only original footage, much of it previously unseen. Yes, bless him, there's not a talking head in sight wind-bagging about the good/bad old days. Just old footage.
And I'm not talking about just old concert films, either. DiCillo has found really bizarre footage of Morrison and his bandmates -- guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore -- as kids, as teens and as adults.
The film begins with a shocking scene of young Morrison (well, he was always young since he died at 27) sitting in a crashed car listening to news of his own death on the radio. What the hell?
Turns out that the footage is from Morrison's UCLA student film (he got a "D"). DiCillo used that footage with an overlay of the actual radio broadcast of Morrison's death some five years later.
In place of the usual lineup of historians, family and friends, there's only gorgeous narration by Johnny Depp, an actor who is today as out-there as Morrison was in his time.
You will hear (and see) stories that will surprise you, if you're not a Doors fanatic.
For example, we learn that Krieger wrote "Light My Fire" in one weekend after Morrison demanded that each member write a new song in two days.
You'll find out why Morrison sang with his back to the audience; you'll see him on "The Ed Sullivan Show" behaving for a little while, but then reneging on a promise not to use the scandalous word "higher" in "Light My Fire."
You'll find out about those leather pants that were, as the film says, "seemingly designed to emphasize his crotch." Seemingly?
You'll find out why he so hated his father and listed his parents as "dead" on his official biography.
His dad -- a career military officer who was leading troops in Vietnam while his son was on stage personifying everything he detested -- wrote Jim early in his career telling him to give up music because he had "no talent."
The film ends with Depp saying: "This much is true: You can't burn out if you're not on fire." Whew.
South Coast Today
May 12 2010 12:00am
Depp and 'American Masters' check into Morrison Hotel
For some time now, PBS pledge drives have become excuses for golden-oldies reviews and baby-boomer nostalgia. And some of their more serious programming has followed suit. Actor Johnny Depp narrates the "American Masters" presentation "The Doors: When You're Strange" (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings).
Fans of the dark and eccentric psychedelic band should enjoy the wealth of rare period footage of The Doors from their formation in 1965 to lead singer Jim Morrison's death in 1971.
But as documentaries go, this film does not live up to "American Masters" standards. Driven by footage and Depp's laudatory narration, "Strange" lacks interviews with key figures, including other members of The Doors -- drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek.
Like too many films and "True Hollywood Story" installments, the story careens from early promise, instant success and the drug and alcohol-fueled excesses of the doomed Morrison. And like far too many documentaries about the 1960s, it tries a tad too hard to explain away acts of self-indulgence and self-destruction as symbols of revolution and liberation.
To be fair, the film makes clear that Morrison's fellow Doors were frequently exasperated and disappointed by his inebriation. And by the end of "Strange," some viewers will feel that way, too.
A dreamlike prologue depicting Morrison hearing of his own death while driving through the California desert in an open convertible only reminds us of how the cult of the Lizard King has inspired some of the more over-the-top products of rock history, most notably Oliver Stone's ludicrous 1991 biopic "The Doors."
By Roger Catlin
May 12, 2010 2:14 AM
Rodger Catlin's TV Eye
On Tonight: Story of The Doors
Another film on public television this week couldn't be more different. Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors" (WGBY, Springfield, Channel 57, 9 p.m.; CPTV, 10 p.m.) is so impressionistic, it probably wouldn't ever show on VH1, even if that network were showing music documentaries instead of things like "Undateable" (VH1, through Friday, 10 p.m.).
Because Jim Morrison was a film student before he became the poet, leadsinger, shaman and drunk at the center of The Doors, there's an awful lot of footage from 1965 to 1971 to construct the era, when the very different sounding band rose out of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood to become international superstars.
It was at a concert at the Old New Haven Arena in December 1967 where everything changed for the band, the film says. When Morrison was arrested onstage in the middle of the concert for badmouthing cops who had mistakenly maced him backstage, the Doors were suddenly seen as a dangerous, foul-mouthed threat to polite society. The artsy depiction of the band, which is built on their music, period interviews and footage from the era, is narrated by Johnny Depp and produced by an unexpected figure, Dick Wolf, the millionaire behind "Law & Order" and its many offshoots.
Posted 14 May 2010 - 03:30 PM
By Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (May 13 2010)
Friday, May 14, 2010 8:44:10 AM
When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors -- 1/2
Strange - and endlessly documented: Doors movie draws on huge film archive
May 13--You could make a pretty good case for the Doors being the first 24-hour news cycle rock group -- 20 years before there was a 24-hour news cycle.
The documentary "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors," getting a theatrical run here after it aired this week under PBS' "American Masters" label, gives an inside look at one of the most iconic pop acts of the late 1960s and early '70s.
"Inside" is actually an understatement.
The movie is built entirely from original footage -- thankfully, no talking heads explaining the Doors' "significance" or hangers-on flashing back on the "scene" -- and the sheer tonnage of that footage is remarkable. If you're a fan, you've seen some of these clips, but many of them have never been shown before. After seeing it, it's hard to imagine that there's a moment of the Doors' 54-month existence that wasn't documented on film.
"When You're Strange" is a Doors movie, which means it's a Jim Morrison movie. At first so shy onstage that he faced the band instead of the audience, Morrison quickly blossomed into one of rock's most compelling and controversial frontmen, simultaneously in complete control of his public persona and powerless to contain it.
While the movie doesn't sugarcoat Morrison's personal demons -- freewheeling narcissism and debilitating substance-abuse problems, mostly involving alcohol -- "When You're Strange" is persistently worshipful of him and the band's jazz- and primal-scream-fueled music. Toward that end, Johnny Depp's heartfelt narration suits writer-director Tom DiCillo's purposes just fine.
The tonic for that tone is the Doors' music. Even the group's contrived rock-shamanism doesn't get in the way of such powerhouse songs as "L.A. Woman," "Light My Fire" and "When the Music's Over."
And when "When You're Strange" delves into the development of those songs, it yields a fresh take on some familiar sounds.
The Doors weren't the embodiment of their time; they weren't even the most important rock act of their time. But "When You're Strange" shows why their music and iconography has lasted beyond their time.
And not just because they got it all down on film.
Behind the scenes: Produced by Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski. Written and directed by Tom DiCillo.
Rated: R; some nudity, sex, drugs and alcohol use, language
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Showing: at Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St., at 9 p.m. Friday; 4 and 9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; and 9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday
How much: $5
Posted 15 May 2010 - 08:44 AM
The New American Mainstream
Posted by: The Decider 19 hours ago | 1,222 Views
The Most Crazy,Whacked Out, Psychedelic Artist Ever!!!
Watching a documentary on the legendary rock band “The Doors”, you gotta give it to the lead singer, Jim Morrison; he was a self destructive, crazy, wacked out, psychedelic muthafucka. Morrison lived, sex, drugs and rock n roll; long gone, Morrison is remembered today for his genius and incredible stage performances. What is it about being a musician that most of them live by this creed? Weed, LCD, cocaine, heroin all seemed like the breakfast of champions for these artists back in the day. Most of it can be attributed to the time they were living in, the dynamic and scope of the country at the time. The war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, riots in cities across America, college campus protests and riots around the country and racial tensions all contributed to the music of the time.
It seems like this is a generational thing because artists today continue to live with a sense of recklessness. When he was free, Lil Wayne walked around with a Styraphone cup filled with only God knows what; Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bird. These are a few artists through the course of musical history that are the most wacked out, psychedelic artist of all-time. Artists that were fueled with a different concoction of whatever they were drinking, snorting or injecting during or after a performance. Artist that at one point or another was totally wacked out of their minds.
Posted 16 May 2010 - 12:56 AM
Now to someone who spends too much time thinking about stuff that tells me two important things.
It's a nice film to watch .......and the subliminal message being given out is simply the message of the Oliver Stone 1991 movie and NOHGOA.
As Jim learned from his UCLA days perception is everything and the truth not quite as much.
But Tom DiCillo is telling us the truth is he not?
According to The Three Amigos he is telling the anti Oliver Stone story so it begs the question why is it that the vast majority of the reviews do not reflect that.
Some of them bang on in their reviews that this is the 'real story' but in the end conclude that it is just the story told in NOHGOA which was the basis for the 1991 Hollywood movie.
The overall sense gleaned from the film is that of a crazy out of control Morrison who got drunk took drugs and upset the sensitive sensibilities of his three more demure band mates.
In other words the crazy mothafucka went mental and wrecked the finest band that ever was.
In other words NOHGOA.
This bunch of hypocrites asked to be judged against Oliver Stones movie and for me that is how I will always judge WYS and judge it harshly. No matter how much pretty footage they put up to distract the viewer from the bullshit of the narrative.
Posted 17 May 2010 - 09:37 AM
Posted 21 May 2010 - 04:00 AM
By Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune
May 21 2010, 5:00AM
Entertainment, Movie reviews
WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE:
A FILM ABOUT THE DOORS
2.5 stars, out of 4
Fans will dig the Doors doc 'When You're Strange,' though it sheds little light on band
Whether by design or coincidence, Johnny Depp is slowly becoming the laid-back voice of psychedelic America.
In 2008, he narrated the superb documentary "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," about the game-changing, drug-abusing journalist. Now comes "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors," another straight-forwardly titled, colon-utilizing documentary about a tripped-out slice of the late-'60s experience.
It opends today (Friday, May 21) for a limited run at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Art Center.
Built around rare concert and behind-the-scenes footage, "When You're Strange" focuses on the convention-shattering quartet behind such enduring songs as "Light My Fire" and "This is the End." Check that: It's billed as a film about The Doors, but it's really about enigmatic lead singer Jim Morrison, that mystical and profane rock 'n' roll poet who seemed to spend all his time, onstage and off, alternating between various stages of inebriation, hallucination and self-destruction.
That's fitting, though, since Morrison was the most outward sign of the band's mystique and thorough strangeness. More to the point: "Without Jim," Depp intones at one point, "there is no Doors."
(Depp's narration, however, does give at least some due credit to Ray Manzarek's singular keyboarding, John Densmore's jazz-influenced drumming and guitarist Robby Krieger's flamenco training).
Appreciators of the band's music and particular brand of onstage mayhem -- of which I am one -- will find a good amount to like about the film's trove of rare footage. Unfortunately, beyond that, there's not a whole lot of breaking on through to new ground, as "When You're Strange" comes up short of offering any real revelations about the band.
After a suitably trippy opening interlude, director Tom DiCillo's movie gets off to a quick, dense start, as Depp sets in matter-of-factly recounting the band's history, all the way up to its last public performance, in New Orleans at The Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas Street.
Along the way, Depp has no substantial current interviews to aid him, and precious few archival ones. As a result, "When You're Strange" often feels like a glorified Wikipedia entry, and it works for much of its running time to shake that clinical vibe. It actually does so only occasionally.
(Most effective are musical sequences where iconic 1960s images are overlaid over performance footage of "The End" and "Riders on the Storm," putting things into context. It's something "When You're Strange" could have used more of.)
DiCillo deserves credit for his choice of titles, at least, borrowing a line from The Doors song "People are Strange," the hypnotizing, carnival-tinged track that feels like a peek into Morrison's psyche. Not only is the title true to the film's study of Morrison's outsider status, but it's true to The Doors' music, too.
"The fact is, the music is strange," Depp says. "It is music for the different, the uninvited. It carries the listener into the shadowy realm of dream."
"When You're Strange" the movie, won't quite carry viewers to the same shadowy realm, but it will at least crack the door a little bit.
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