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Strange Fascination 

Archival footage is the real draw of this doc about the Doors

Thursday, Apr 8 2010
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A rock doc with more than a whiff of fried brain cells, Tom DiCillo's When You're Strange serves to remind the faithful that the Doors were a fabulously tight, ferociously talented musical unit fronted by the drop-dead-gorgeous Jim Morrison — and why not? The Doors provided a suitably carnivalesque soundtrack for the High Sixties fun house, and the band's lederhosen-clad lead singer offered an amazing parallel to his father, a Navy admiral who happened to be commanding the U.S. fleet during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that jump-started the nation's full-scale involvement in Vietnam. DiCillo overburdens When You're Strange, narrated by Johnny Depp, with a cliché barrage of a-chronological news events, but the archival Doors footage he has assembled is anything but banal — the band compelled to perform with house lights on and within a police perimeter, Morrison mixing with his audience at the Singer Bowl or mixing it up with the cops in New Haven, the career-capping Miami debacle that locked him in permanent martyrdom mode. Like the Living Theatre or Lenny Bruce, Morrison embraced the Jesus thing. His self-medicated bloat-out — dead in Paris at 27 — only sanctified his anticareer. For a couple of years, Morrison was the best act in American show business. And the best thing about it: It wasn't an act. (Sunset 5, Monica, Playhouse, Town Center)

click to enlarge When You’re Strange
  • When You’re Strange

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Reach the writer at jhoberman@villagevoice.com

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