When You're Strange: A Film about the Doors Tom DiCillo

When You're Strange: A Film about the Doors Tom DiCillo
If ever there were a band that lived and died by their frontman, they were the Doors. Opinions on the band generally fall into two categories: Jim Morrison was a shaman rock God or, to paraphrase Almost Famous, a drunken buffoon parading around as a poet. Those assessments ignore the actual band — keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore — leaving one to assume that we're all pretty much in agreement that that trio could play the hell out of their instruments. But Morrison will forever remain the focal point of the quartet's music and legacy, something that Manzarek, never one to miss an opportunity to push Morrison the Legend over the truth, will hammer home in every interview. Director Tom DiCillo wisely treads a fine line between fact and fiction in this doc narrated by Johnny Depp, so as not to upset either camp. He succeeds in this tightrope walk, acknowledging the legend, but not letting it obscure the truth, by interviewing no one. Instead, he tells the L.A. group's story through archival footage and contemporary reconstructions. It's a dubious angle, but it works well, Depp weaving a narrative seemingly out of thin air. But the sheer depth of research is clearly seen on screen and heard in the script. Wisely, DiCillo skips discussions on the band's lone post-Morrison record and the Ian Astbury-fronted Doors of the 21st Century, ensuring that the band's legacy is kept intact and unvarnished from the remaining trio's dubious business moves after Morrison's passing. Ultimately, the level of enjoyment will depend on how much you like the band's music; but even if you think their tunes were overlong L.A. hippie jams, it's worth seeing, if only to erase the memory of Oliver Stone's terrible 1991 biopic. (Eagle Vision)