Tuesday 24 April 2018

Movies: When you're strange **

(Club, IFI)

Paul Whitington

Almost 40 years after his untimely death, the jury is still out on Jim Morrison. Was he a counterculture shaman, a bit of a genius, or a pretentious, spoilt and self-indulgent twit? He was a bit of each, if you ask me, but this new documentary on Morrison and The Doors is unlikely to make the issue any clearer for you. Directed by Tom DiCillo -- who scored a major indie hit in the mid-90s with Living in Oblivion and then failed to capitalise on it -- When You're Strange is apparently intended as a sort of truthful riposte to the inaccuracies of Oliver Stone's 1991 film, The Doors.

DiCillo's film is a mishmash of archive footage and narrated musings that's built around clips from a 1969 film called HWY, in which Morrison is shown driving through the desert. In a stilted and at times appallingly written voiceover performed by Johnny Depp, we learn how Morrison met up with Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger in the mid-60s and shot to international fame on the back of their first single, Light My Fire. As we see in concert footage, Morrison was a mesmeric performer -- when not under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

As the band's fame grew, so did Morrison's self-destructive behaviour. From 1968 onwards, he more or less imploded in public.

DeCillo's film picks over all of this both inefficiently and pruriently, and his script is full of unintentionally funny lines such as, "Charles Manson's use of LSD did not lead to enlightenment".

It's a bit of a mess, though, and fails to tell us anything new.

Irish Independent

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