"When You're Strange," Tom DiCillo's new documentary narrated by Johnny Depp, is filled with such plentiful and unbelievably fine archival footage that you may find yourself wondering several times if you're watching an America's Most Wanted-style recreation with a Jim Morrison look-a-like.
But no, that's the real Morrison and what you're seeing is a melding of concert footage, behind-the-scenes documentation and, the crown jewel, Morrison's film "HWY," which the singer directed and starred in but never completed. Repurposed here, we see Morrison, bearded and lean, meanderingly driving through the dessert. If David Lynch, the Coen Brothers and Timothy Leary made a student film together, it might have had this aesthetic.
Cameras seemed to be rolling constantly around The Doors, from backstage to the recording studio, and it's fascinating stuff, as if Morrison knew he wasn't long for this earth and decided to leave a video legacy for precisely for this reason, like a postcard from beyond the grave.
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Even when DiCillo opts to slip into long lolls of straight forward performance footage, the thrill of witnessing this legendary band in action offsets what could be long, dull-ish stretches. "When You're Strange" is enjoyable and engrossing, but the reason to see the movie is the same reason people flocked to see The Doors -- Jim.
From the first image of him, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, the alluring curve of an impish smile, he's dynamic, compelling and oozing sex appeal. The other band members, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger, form a muted tapestry behind him. Of course their involvement was essential for the band to achieve greatness, but its Morrison you can't avert your eyes from.