At The Movies: When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors Review
When’s it out?
When You’re Strange is currently on limited release throughout the UK, and arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 30th.
Who’s in it?
Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore. Narration by Johnny Depp.
What’s it about?
It’s a chronological documentary charting the entire career of cult American blues-rock outfit The Doors. The film begins with the group’s formation, and ends at the point of lead singer Jim Morrison’s death. Comprised of nothing but archive footage (some of it never before seen) the film will surely keep fans happy with its fresh exclusive material, along with its focus on some of the band’s more infamous moments, but in many ways this works best as a game-changer for anyone who’s never understood what all the fuss was about.
What’s it like?
A dreamy and fascinating stream-of-consciousness collage.
Star of the show?
Somewhat inevitably, Jim Morrison.
The duration. When You’re Strange runs for an astonishingly taut ninety minutes, and director Tom DiCillo comes across as an impeccable craftsman of genuine taste and tact. Though afterwards you’ll surely be tempted to investigate further if you were previously unfamiliar with the band’s music, as a document of the group and their insurgent ethos, as well as of the shifting cultural landscape which they helped to form a fundamental part of, the film feels very close to definitive.
Jim Morrison’s introduction. Despite appearing in the opening few minutes in some bewitching footage of a sparse, abandoned student road movie, when Morrison joins the rest of the band at an airport as they introduce themselves to a waiting news crew, his response to being asked about his occupation somehow manages to encapsulate his enchanting persona in a brilliantly chosen split second. Even those who’ve never understood the Lizard King’s perennial appeal will be instantaneously won over.
Completely bereft of distracting retrospective interviews, the film is as much about the band as it is about that particular period in American history, and feels very much like the work of British Rock-doc supremo Julian Temple; and for a film of this kind, praise doesn’t come any higher. It also sets a few moments aside to debunk a handful of persistent myths, like the fact that arguably the band’s best known song, Light My Fire, wasn’t written by Jim Morrison but by lead guitarist Robby Krieger. Dense with candid studio footage and live performances, it offers a valuable glimpse into both a seminal band, and one of the the most important cultural revolutions of the past century.
Hit or miss?
A hit. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the band or not.
Watch The Door’s When you’re strange trailer here…