When I heard about a documentary at SXSW involving The Doors, they already had me in the theater. When I later discovered that the original guitar player, and creator of such songs as ‘Light My Fire’, Robby Krieger was going to introduce the film there, I didn’t hesitate to rush to my seat.
When You’re Strange – a film about The Doors is a feature documentary directed by Tom DiCillo and is comprised entirely of archival footage that was shot between the years of 1965 and 1971. The film is narrated by the soothing voice of Johnny Depp. Which had positives and negatives for me. I love his voice in anything, but because of the influence that Hunter S. Thompson had on him for the 60s and 70s, he has sort of become the iconic voice of the era for the generations too young to have enjoyed the 60s and 70s, like myself. There were moments, though, when I couldn’t help but think this was just another monologue from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The archival footage was certainly a delight, since some of it has never been seen and there were some burning questions in my mind from not being able to find out much about these subjects before, aka Lizard King, that were answered for me in this documentary. Director Tom DiCillo did a great job of compiling all the footage he found into a neat little package for us, although most of the information shared, most people would already be aware of if they are a fan of The Doors.
The parts that I found most intriguing were all about Jim Morrison’s past before coming into The Doors and just exactly how smart he was to start. Which helps to describe the path he lead, and his ability to gain followers so easily. Although, he never could read a note of music to save his life. I also found it interesting to hear a bit more about the rest of the band members: keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger.
Overall though, most of the insight and narrative could just as easily be read on Wikipedia, minus a few things and even though Johnny Depp was interesting and pulled off a couple of sly jokes with the dialogue, the film would have been the same with out him. If you are a die hard fan of The Doors, you will enjoy the footage from infamous shows and interviews and recording sessions (which were awesome). If you are a casual fan, you could just as easily skip this and rent Oliver Stone’s version, The Doors for a more cinematic approach.
The Doors were only together for 54 months, yet in hindsight, they seemed to have accomplished so much in that time. Jim was the original rockstar and everyone after that was just imitating. I have, somehow, gained more respect and admiration for the band I already loved so much and would encourage you to Break on Through to the fan side.
I give When You’re Strange 3 “lizards” out of 5.
by Angela Davis