<Movie Details
1 April 2010 by Chris Prince

In an era supposedly defined by peace, love and understanding, The Doors were something of an anomaly.

Complex and confrontational, the band scandalised sixties America with their dark and unsettling music and front man Jim Morrison's brooding persona and sexually-charged stage presence.

This solid documentary from DiCillo (Living in Oblivion) attempts to offer some insight into the dark magic which continues to win the band new fans and that has turned Morrison into a true rock legend. 

Using only footage from the time, including impressive never-seen-before archive material, DiCillo through Depp's narration, re-tells the story of The Doors minus the traditional talking heads interviews.

For the most part, the exceptional footage speaks for itself, offering intimate perspectives on spine-tingling live performances, candid offstage footage and rare clips from arty film projects clearly designed to reinforce Morrison's mythic qualities.

The band's rise and fall and rise again in the space of just a few years is an undeniably fascinating story, their incredible productivity during such a turbulent time being a lesson to  modern artists who struggle to turn out a decent album every half-decade,

Unfortunately, while it's a relief not to have to listen to acid-addled recollections from roadies and hangers-on, there's something slightly insubstantial about When You're Strange.

Fledgling fans may well find DiCillo's film a valuable primer, and hardcore fans will appreciate the unearthed footage, but those looking for deeper insight into what made the Lizard King and crew tick may feel short changed.

Also problematic is the somewhat fawning nature of DiCillo's script and the fact that a distracted sounding Depp - who previously narrated Hunter S Thompson documentary Gonzo - might be overdoing his role as documentary film's official counter culture spokesman.

That said, DiCillo's love letter to The Doors never gets as pretentious and silly as Oliver Stone's 1991 film, despite vividly recalling many of the same events in the band's career – most notably Morrison's arrest for indecent exposure following an infamous concert in Miami.

Occasionally stirring yet strangely inessential, if you're not already a Doors fan, DiCillo's film may fail to light your fire.

Chris Prince


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