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The Doors - When You're Strange CD (album) cover

WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

2.47 | 13 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars no one here gets...out... inspired!

It should have been like taking candy from a baby. Yet with every conceivable advantage going for them the filmmaker manages to suck all life from a great rock and rock story, band, and icon. Even worse is the uninspiring document of the music. The Doors were not the greatest band to walk the Earth, but they provided many moments of musical magic in their 5 years and this film captures very little, no heart, no soul, no Love Street. I'm not suggesting filmmakers should participate in myth-building (and of course The Doors needed little help in that regard), but a great documentary can tell the story factually while capturing the general spirit which the fans find rapturous in the music. This film fails on that most important part while managing to make this band's interesting story as flailing and passionless as possible.

As mentioned they have everything available to them: the blessing and help of the surviving Doors members, family members, a high profile narrator, and unprecedented access to the video archives. Yet the film is surprisingly boring and hopelessly negative. We all know Morrison was a serious substance user but there was so much more to the story, and this film is just a sensationalist look at his abuses and wildness. It's just like with Syd Barrett, where every documentary is obsessed with his personal issues and is unable to balance that with the good things about the person and the magic of the artwork. In the case of both Barrett and Morrison, the whole picture is always obscured by this nonsense. They want to perpetuate the "tragic figure" angle built by the band machinery and the hunger of some fans for it, when with a little digging into friends and family you'll find the reality was not one-dimensional. Morrison was much more than these caricatures, and the surface of his talent and his humor are barely scratched. It's all about Jim in the bottle here, as Barrett docs are always about LSD and mental illness, and Cobain docs always fixated about the final gunshot. It angers me if you can't tell, that these are the superficial, tunnel vision narratives being left to younger generations about these artists. Hopefully future fans will listen to the music and read beyond the surface to get the whole story. Even Oliver Stone's flawed feature about The Doors got closer to the spirit of the band and their music, in my opinion. "When You're Strange" does little to illuminate Jim Morrison, his crucial relationship with Pamela, it gives little insight into the other Doors and who they were, and it manages to reduce their music to the mundane. It's a complete fumble on the one yard line.

The single bright light here is the chance to see some really rare, high quality footage of a film Morrison made in '69 called "HWY" as well as other choice bits of early family life and extended clips of the disastrous Miami gig. Also very cool were the interviews with Jim's father and sister, but these interviews were extras and not part of the film, another huge mistake. They were the most humanizing moments. These clips are worth the time for Doors fans to check out, but when combined with Depp's lifeless narration and the tortuous insistence of the director to follow the predictable "tragic figure" angle rather than discussing the actual music, the clips cannot save the film. It moves along mostly chronologically, but jumps back and forth a bit, explaining what is happening each year. I now understand the many negative reviews at the usually universally positive Amazon.com website. I can only recommend this to fans who need to see the rare clips

Finnforest | 2/5 |

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