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‘When You’re Strange’ opens no Doors

Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors" means to answer the more loony flights of fancy taken by Oliver Stone in his 1991 Doors biopic, but, in the process, creates a formal exercise in redundancy, offering no new insights into the much mythologized rock band.The documentary does boast unseen archival footage of Doors band members Jim Morrison, Robbie Krieger, Ray Manzarek and
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors" means to answer the more loony flights of fancy taken by Oliver Stone in his 1991 Doors biopic, but, in the process, creates a formal exercise in redundancy, offering no new insights into the much mythologized rock band.

The documentary does boast unseen archival footage of Doors band members Jim Morrison, Robbie Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore rehearsing, performing, hanging out backstage and, in the case of singer Morrison, defining, for better and worse, the rock-star template that some musicians still follow to this day.

Die-hard fans will also revel in seeing several scenes from "HWY," an experimental film Morrison made with friends in 1969 out in the Southern California desert. We watch The Lizard King driving and crashing a '66 Mustang fastback, covering a dying coyote with a blanket and lending his camera-ready charisma to the role of aimless drifter.

That home movie footage is more revelatory than anything else in DiCillo's film, which rehashes the band's well-chronicled, boom-to-bust history in rote fashion.

Why no new interviews?

Instead of "The Wonder Years" montages, the movie would have benefited enormously from new interviews with the surviving band members. Perhaps legal entanglements prevented that from happening. Densmore has successfully sued Krieger and Manzarek over the years for using the band's name and logo in new incarnations.

Undoubtedly, the trio would have had some interesting (and conflicting) things to say about The Doors' legacy, but their thoughts might not have jibed with the kind of reductive myth-making that DiCillo seeks with his movie.

Johnny Depp provides the narration, dutifully reading the bland script and trying to lend a measure of soulfulness to the textbook-quality words.

The personality cult that has grown around Morrison's self-styled Dionysus image has played a part in maintaining interest. As the movie notes, toward the end, fans came to the band's infrequent concerts not for the music, but for the "spectacle."

"It didn't seem like actual entertainment," complains one paying customer, following The Doors' infamous 1969 Miami concert, after which Morrison was charged with a felony count of lewd and lascivious behavior.

As bogus as the charge might have been, there's little disputing the concertgoer's point.