Published Apr 15, 2010So, 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)