DVD: When You’re Strange

Photo: amazon.ca
(The Doors a.k.a. just Jim)
Narrated by Johnny Depp. Directed by Tom DiCillo. 90 minutes. 14A

When You’re Strange is a better song than this documentary. The song is soulful yet airy. Riffs are catchy, lyrics are interesting. It’s the kind of song you could set on repeat for a while. This documentary, on the other hand, is too linear and predictable: instant fame, too cool for school, then drugs.

When You’re Strange sums up The Doors from genesis to crash. Actually, it’s mostly about Jim Morrison. It’s as if there is no band, there is just Jim. He is The Doors and some fans would probably argue so, just as this documentary does. The Doors’ story is framed by scenes from a film that Morrisson made and stars in, but set up by DiCillo to imply that Morrison faked his own death, as DiCillo dubs news of Morrison’s death over the scene where the car radio plays. Y’know, like Elvis and Tupac.

As a Doors fan, you might get distracted by the music in this film, but as a neutral observer, it should be about how the doc carries the songs and the band’s story. Unfortunately in this case, it’s not very well. The story is not very compelling. That’s not to say The Doors, or Jim, didn’t lead interesting lives or careers, it’s just a story we’ve seen on film too many times before. It’s up to the doc creators to come up with a new way of telling that story, bringing new elements to it, maybe finding details we wouldn’t expect. Instead, DiCillo keeps it cliche, making it a doc for Doors lovers, not music lovers.

The film also embeds a weird narrative with Morrisson, set in the desert, filling up at a gas station, covering up a dying animal and playing with random children. It seems staged because it is. The footage cheese-ifies the doc, detracting from its integrity. But again, maybe a gem for the die-hard fans.

As a whole, nothing is very memorable. You might stumble across this doc on TV again one day and not remember you’d seen it before. But if you aren’t a Doors fan, you’ll probably just flip the channel. C


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