Written by Fantasma el Rey
Whether you’re a fan of The Doors, have a slight interest, or just like good films then When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors is a must-see. This is the first feature documentary on The Doors and it's going to be hard to beat this one. Fast paced, informative, and entertaining in its 96-minute run time, When You’re Strange is seriously a joy and a thrill to see more than once.
Written and directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, the film recounts the roller-coaster ride that was the five-year lifespan of The Doors. You may have read the books and seen the bio-pic, but this documentary truly brings to life the twisted, dark dream-like world of Jim Morrison and The Doors’ music. The documentary is put together using film from those hectic, exciting days, much of it never before seen which makes the tale told here even more enveloping. The real photos, footage, and audio of the stories and events that are legendary are all here.
Archival footage rolls from the get-go as we see how director DiCillo cleverly blends scenes from a film Jim Morrison made and Jim Ladd's breaking news of Morrison’s death. The great footage from the period never ends as we follow along as two UCLA Film School guys (Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek) get together with a jazz drummer (John Densmore) and a classically trained flamenco guitarist (Robby Krieger) to put poetry to music. Along the way people and places come and go, introduced to us through the classic film and photos, so we see them as they were in days past. We hear and see people and concerts that we have read about or only seen clips of before. Not only did the cameras follow the on-stage antics but the behind-the-scenes moments in the recording studio as well as slices of everyday life with family and friends. We are with them in conflict and closeness, times together and time apart, watching as the band pulls together to pull Jim back down to earth.
When You’re Strange is more than a documentary; it’s a doorway through time that allows you to take part on the adventure through the classic years of The Doors. DiCillo puts you there as it happened and lets you get a feel, no matter how slight, of what it must have been like in those days bordering creativity and madness, through the dizzying highs and scary crashes. Depp’s calm voice and love for the band only intensifies the ride and keeps you watching with wonder and delight as we watch the events unfold like it was only yesterday they took place or last night you had this dream of old friends and strange days. The music is picked to match the scene perfectly and brings the film to life that much more. It’s easy to see why so much hype and acclaim have been showered on this film.
The DVD has only one real bonus feature but it’s enough as it is an exclusive interview with Admiral George C. Morrison, USN (Ret.) Jim’s father, who has never discussed his son’s life on camera. A very interesting look at the man that we had only slightly heard about, and mostly negative things at that. Here we see a man that may be looking back and finally seeing what it is his son was trying to do as a performer and artist.
When You’re Strange is a reminder that at a time when sunshine and flowers were the order of the day The Doors where there to remind us that there is and always will be a dark side to the world. So sit back for an hour and half and let the drama, tragedy, comedy, and of course, the music of The Doors take over and race you down the highway on a voyage where one hopes the doors of perception will be cleansed and we can see the world as it is, infinite
Article first published as DVD Review: When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors on Blogcritics.