A chronological look at The Doors, focusing on lead singer, Jim Morrison (1943-1971), from the formation of the band in 1965, it's first gigs, and first album, to Morrison's death, after years of alcohol and drug use. Along the journey, we see archival footage of rehearsals, performances, and private moments including a Miami concert resulting in Morrison's arrest and trial for indecency. His love of the spotlight, his desire to be a poet, and his alcohol-fueled mood swings lead to a back and forth between public and private desires, successes, and failures. The band's music plays throughout. Written by
A mock newspaper clipping announces both that Sharon Tate and her friends have been found murdered and that Charles Manson and his "Family" are suspected. Manson and the "Family" were not identified as the Tate killers until December 1969, more than four months after the murders happened. See more »
I attended a special screening of the music documentary "When You're Strange: A Film about The Doors" at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. This was my 18th screening here and the first to be completely sold out.
Writer/director Tom DiCillo was able to gain access to original footage shot from 1966-71 by Paul Ferrara, a UCLA Film School buddy of flamboyant lead singer Jim Morrison. Those old, grainy films are all that were needed to make this stunning documentary -- no modern-day or additional footage was shot.
The dramatic voice-over was provided by Johnny Depp who, in a statement from DiCillo read prior to the screening, was the one person the filmmakers felt qualified to narrate the movie. It had to be someone with a passion for the music of The Doors, and Depp fit the bill.
With the assistance of the remaining living members, particularly band co-founder and keyboardist Ray Manzarek (who sat in front of me), the film is destined to be the definitive chronicle of the band's history. We finally discover the shocking truth behind the curious myths -- did Morrison really expose his genitals at that infamous Florida concert? Did he fake his own death? "When You're Strange" separates fact from fiction and puts to rest the many rumors surrounding the manic life and untimely death of Jim Morrison. The heretofore secret details behind the making of each amazing album (one took 11 months, another took less than a week) are mind-boggling. Naturally, there's plenty of music. Tons of it.
Like all music docs, the degree to which one connects with the film is directly proportional to one's familiarity with the music and/or artists featured in the production. This certainly applies here. Like some of the thrilling music documentaries I've seen at festivals in the past couple of years ("The U.S. vs. John Lennon," "Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing," "The Wrecking Crew," "Kurt Cobain About a Son"), I put "When You're Strange" right at the top of my list. I was blown away. However, while I walked away feeling that this was an absolutely brilliant film, I have to give it a qualified thumbs up if only because there is no doubt many simply won't have the emotional response that I did. But, for fans of this music, "When You're Strange" is absolutely a must-see.
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