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When Your Strange - Film Review

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#1 darkstar


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Posted 15 April 2010 - 01:19 PM

April 15 2010

Film Reviews
When You’re Strange
Directed by Tom DiCillo
By Robert Bell

So, with all of the existing panegyric orations on the mystic genius of revolutionary pundit and affected drug-addict Jim Morrison, one has to wonder just what could someone possibly have to say about the man, and the Doors, that hasn't already been said in existing biographies, specials and, of course, Oliver Stone's trademark indulgence. After watching Tom DiCillo's documentary, When You're Strange, the answer to this question becomes abundantly clear: absolutely nothing.

It's clear from the get go that DiCillo has no interest in delving deeper or, gasp, pointing out some overt, but less than savoury, observations about a man constantly presenting and performing an idea of misunderstood badass desperately seeking the approval of others. In fact, from the opening moments when the Doors' music is tied in with images of Vietnam, Woodstock and rioting hippies, the agenda is to reduce the '60s to the broadest of signifiers in order to fit a strained mirroring of mythos to politics.

Johnny Depp's narration praises Morrison as a brilliant poet and veritable enigma, suggesting a unique connection with fans while archive footage shows him soaking up the attention of those that swarm him. It takes pointed pride in his many subversions, such as using the term "higher" while performing "Light My Fire" on The Ed Sullivan Show, despite being asked not to, showing how awesome it is to flip the bird to people that are helping your career.

Aside from some generalized biographic exposition, these diversions and tirades take up most of the narrative, with the famed Miami concert, some emotional outbursts and embarrassing footage from The Soft Parade recording sessions, with a visibly stoned Morrison, playing in the background.

As mentioned, there is nothing new here, but those looking for a feature-length excuse to praise a musical icon and talented performer most likely won't care. Even in the final moments of the documentary when the deaths of Hendrix, Kennedy and a few others are interspersed with a performance of "The End" without irony, fans may be engrossed enough in the music to avoid laughing at the uncreative image of a match going out. (Rhino)


#2 darkstar


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Posted 15 April 2010 - 01:22 PM

Now Magazine - Movies
April 15-22, 2010 | VOL 29 NO 33
By Norman Wilner

WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE (Tom DiCillo). 87 minutes. Opens Friday (April 16).

Movie Reviews

When You’re Strange - Open Doors

As a collection of archival footage of the Doors on- and offstage, When You’re Strange is an invaluable document, tracking the band from its earliest configurations to its dissolution less than five years later – with Johnny Depp’s mellow-?toned narration helping the images flow.

But like every other Doors documentarian, director Tom DiCillo buys into the spectacle of Jim Morrison, shoving his bandmates into the background to concentrate on the singer’s spectacular downward spiral – played as a brilliant flame-?out, rather than pathetic, self-?destructive overindulgence.

Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore will someday escape Mr. Mojo Risin’s shadow and get their due as innovative musicians who changed the sonic landscape of the 60s. But not yet.


Chart Attack

When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors Has Genuine Insight
Wolf Films/Strange Pictures

Dan Lovranski (CHARTattack)

April 15 2010 2:04pm

Proving that the best way to have a lengthy career is to live fast, burn bright and and leave a good looking corpse, The Doors are once again up for examination.

It happened in the '80s with the book No One Here Gets Out Alive, again in the '90s with Oliver Stone's movie and more recently, with the various multi-set releases highlighting old live Doors shows.

Tom DiCillo adds his two cents to the legend-enhancing process with his new documentary When You're Strange. The Doors are a perfect fit for this, since both singer Jim Morrison and keyboard player Ray Manzarek embraced film throughout their career (they met while film students at UCLA), with Manzarek actually providing footage for this film from his personal collection.

By mixing elements of live and TV appearances, studio sessions for The Soft Parade and some unseen footage shot for a movie Morrison was making at one time, DiCillo creates a gripping cinematic portrait of The Doors and their rollercoaster ride from '66 to '71.

The documentary is anchored by a project Morrison was working on called HWY: An American Pastoral. It's endless footage of Morrison driving a Ford Mustang SVT Cobra through the desert while his own obit plays over the radio.

It ends up doing two things, as it teases the conspiracy theorist favourite that Morrison faked his own death to get out, but also illustrates quite nicely how Morrison seemed to be endlessly driving, constantly searching and never finding whatever he was looking for.

DiCillo's approach helps keep things in the context by not only setting The Doors up in relation to the massive social change happening at the time, but by also exclusively constructing the film from the footage of the time. We don't see any of that now-standard rock doc cliche: the talking head. That alone makes it seem incredibly fresh, even though it's just a mix of cinema verite and Johnny Depp's voice of God narration.

Although The Doors and Morrison are often placed higher in the rock pantheon than they deserve, there's no debating they were a captivating rock band that burned mighty bright before blowing up in a fireball.

When We're Strange may not give us all the answers or even begin to pretend to know what drove Morrison, but it captures their intensity and is the best account to date of this explosive unit.


#3 Guest_TheWallsScreamedPoetry_*

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Posted 16 April 2010 - 12:55 AM

The sense I get from most of the reviews is that most perceive the film as a film about Jim, his drink/drug problems and his eventual downfall. The more I read the less I feel this was ever a documentary about The Doors. Having seen the film and come to my own conclusions which most reviews, even the good ones, seem to echo it seems strange in itself that this is being passed off as a Doors film.
As with Stone's epic The Doors have been reduced to a slight footnote in the career of Jim Morrison. The other three simply Jim's backing band rather than anything tangible in their own right.
Of course thats not true but the perception is there that it is true which for me as a Doors fan I find worrying.
If only as Sara said on another thread someone with some real vision could have taken charge and portrayed Morrison as a human being and The Doors as a group instead of falling back on the usual well worn tale NOHGOA sold back in the 70s and 80s. sad.gif