Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Doors: When You're Strange Documentary a Success

On May 12, the documentary entitled, The Doors: When You're Strange was aired on public television. The film's release date for theatres was April 9th and has been featured at several festivals including Sundance, Berlin and San Sebastian. The documentary follows the coming together of the iconic group, from the dark and curious childhood of Morrison, to the New Haven rock show that fans all around the country will never cease to remember. Award winning director and screen writer, Tom DiCillo decided to take the plunge into creating a riveting, hard truth documentary about the forming of four talented young artists. Alongside DiCillo was Johnny Depp, narrating the rise and success story of The Doors up until Morrison's final crash and burn. Upon viewing this film, I had very high expectations. Being an avid Doors fan that I was, I expected to be moved and entertained while viewing the film. The footage used was all authentic, from the concerts themselves to the wanderlust desert walks Jim takes that were digitally remastered using archive footage from a film Morrison had in the works.

I would have to say with confidence that I was blown away at the realistic elements the film contained. It delivered the life stories of all four members, Ray Manzarek (Keys), Robby Krieger (Guitar) and John Densmore (Percussion). Since I have been a Doors fan for a while, I had known a lot of the information that Depp was talking about during their rise to fame. I was pleased with the aesthetics used in the film and admired the way that DiCillo incorporated remastered scenes from the HWY film Morrison had been working on before his tragic death. I would have to say that my favourite part of this film was, besides the visuals, the coming together of the actual band as well as their actual starting point. To see Jim Morrison with his back turned sheepishly to the audience in front of him at a local venue in California, was an amusing, stark contrast to the lunatic frontman he came to be about two months later. I had known little about the organ player, Ray Manzarek, but during this film I began to understand the inner workings of the group much more and avoid the idolized view that many held for Jim Morrison. Ray was the oldest member of The Doors, hailing from the native California himself, he met Jim after he had chosen to attend UCLA as a film major. Unfortunately the film career did not exactly take off as Jim had imagined, yet after meeting Manzarek, Jim decided to direct his interests towards that of a musical endeavour. Though Jim is viewed as the icon for the Doors, it was actually Manzarek who formed the band. The two met guitar player Robby Krieger and jazz percussionist John Densmore to create a sound that really was originial in every aspect.

I admired the work of DiCillo in this particular film because not only did he use real footage, but he took each member and gave them their fifteen minutes of fame. For example, Robby Krieger, the youngest of the group and tremendously talented guitarist for The Doors, wrote most of their songs that are still famous today including "Love Me Two Times" and "Touch Me". After Morrison demanded that his bandmates write a song that night as "homework", Krieger pulled through with the hit song, "Light My Fire." From his moving, catchy riffs to his intricate, groove worthy fills and solos, Krieger is the unsung hero in a lot of what The Doors produced. John Densmore as well was recognized in this film as the quiet man on set. He was the second youngest of the four members and often times became annoyed at Jim's antics on stage as the group progressed. Densmore held the group together with the calm, mysterious jazz beats and fast paced, exciting drum lines. I believe that Densmore deserves more credit, as he was the one who suggested that Morrison get his act together. As said before, Ray Manzarek, the oldest of the group always kept his cool under pressure and seemed to be in control when everything else seemed to be crumbling to the ground. In a famous concert that The Doors performed at, Manzarek was the only one who continued to play the keys as Morrison was drunkenly escorted off the stage, with Krieger and Densmore stopping altogethe to continue the piece. Manzarek also played the bass guitar on some of the tracks the most famous being "Riders On The Storm".

The documentary carefully uses the nihilistic drive of Morrison to move the film, to be the backbone of it all. Though an awfully talented writer, and self published poet, Morrison's drunken words on stage and in the studio were not enough to keep his career alive. The only complaint I would have about this film is the fact that Johnny Depp's delivery is somewhat blunt and intrusive at times, pausing at inappropriate moments and telling the audience information that was not pertinent to the film itself. The narration could have been a little bit more enthusiastic, however I do commend Depp for maintaining such a dark, alluring tone. This documentary certainly trumps that of Oliver Stone's film, The Doors released in 1991 because it reveals many unknown facts and stories about the band itself. I feel that DiCillo did a wonderful job in recreating the authenticity, giving the audience something to walk away with after viewing the film.

I greatly enjoyed this film for many reasons that I have clearly stated. I really liked the fact that it was raw, the director did not try to sugarcoat anything that actually happened. It is a clear cut look into The Doors, the psychedelic era and the music that fueled the age. I loved the soundtrack that fit accordingly with the film itself as I found myself singing along to songs off The Soft Parade, L.A. Woman and Strange Days. Overall, this film was excellent, I felt like I had taken a trip through history and really gained insight on the iconic group. They were doing something so different, so out of the ordinary that people did not know what to think. They stood in grave contrast to The Beatles with their dark, spacey words and eerie sound. I cannot get enough of Jim Morrison's profound lyrics and the group's extraordinary musicianship. I have to ask myself, why would anyone think anything less? Although this documentary may seem esoteric, I believe that everyone should see this film because it shows true talent, raw emotion and is certianly one of the most realistic accounts of one of the greatest rock bands that I can think of.

4.5/5 review.

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