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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Film - When You're Strange - directed by Tom DiCillo

Star rating – 8/10

Tom DiCillo uses archive footage to tell the story of the Doors from their beginnings in 1966 when Jim Morrison was so shy that he had to sing with his back to the audience, facing the band like he did in rehearsals, to his tragic but somewhat inevitable death in Paris in 1971, aged just 27. It is narrated with feeling and empathy by Johnny Depp, and is inevitably the story not just of the band, but of the hypnotically beautiful Morrison himself.

It includes great live footage of their concerts, and most of all shows how Morrison lived without compromise. He did what he wanted to, with little regard for his career – often to the frustration of his band mates. There is shocking footage included of him being assaulted on stage by the police for daring to be different. Morrison was a star that burned so brightly in his sky that he could only exist for a short time, like so many other rock legends – Hendrix, Joplin, Elvis, and Lennon included. Would he have been so revered if he had lived on to become an aging rocker like Mick Jagger? – I think not.

This fascinating film also makes you realise just how many great songs the Doors recorded, some of which are not even included here. Morrison’s fellow band members were excellent musicians, who were propelled into superstardom status as very young men for a while due largely to their talismanic front man Morrison. The one missing element for me was the voices of rest of band, or the story from their perspective, which is strangely missing. But the camera loves Jim, and he sure loves the camera, either on stage in his tight leather trousers to emphasise his manhood, or off stage mingling mischievously with fans before a concert. If you like the Doors, you will love this film, if you don’t, or don’t know much about them, I would guess it probably won’t convert you, but it might just make you a bit curious, which can’t be bad thing now can it?

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