By: Maria Santilli
Along with bare-breasted hippies, LSD and flower power, the sixties mothered one other significant thing: The Doors. Director Tom DiCillo’s When You’re Strange: a Film about The Doors captures the band’s significance, tracing back to 1965 during the moment that Ray Manzarek encouraged Jim Morrison to sing the “concert” that played in his head.
When You’re Strange is a compilation of actual video from The Doors’ beginning until Morrison’s untimely death in 1971.
The film, which is narrated by Johnny Depp, is made up of flashy scenes and jump cuts of the shaky vintage video footage. The Doors are shown a number of times in the recording studio, which usually became homage to Morrison’s chain smoking and binge drinking. Ending up with six notable albums, Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and Johnny Dunsmore disseminated their sound across the globe. The band dealt with Morrison’s unstable behavior, while the film also featured a fair amount of 1960s youth counterculture. A youth that plunged into the unique music of The Doors, and connected to the poetry and lyrics that Morrison moaned through the microphone.
“Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors,” Jim Morrison said in the documentary. The wholehearted adoration The Doors received from young fans was infectious- leaving older generations disturbed and appalled. The documentary exudes the struggle of being dubbed as wild, and later chaotic, after Morrison’s arrest for exposing his genitalia at a sold-out show in Miami.
When You’re Strange places all four of the band members in the same light, as opposed to their usual second to the Lizard King. Yet, being that it is hard to ignore, the film doesn’t shortchange Morrison for his mystery. Witnessing him curdling on the stage floor in front of thousands of people at a live performance while tripping on LSD is something that will embed itself into a fragment of memory and simply wait to resurface the next time you hear “Light My Fire”.
The film backtracks 45 years, as the classic videos shine on how far The Doors have come. The timelessness of their music has traveled from 45’s to iPods, and from the way it is looking, their music will continue to live on.
Whether you’re a diehard Doors fan or not, the documentary will leave you wanting more.
Opens Friday at Puff at the Piazza in Northern Liberties.
Maria Santilli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org