What makes it interesting is the way DiCillo puts the band's brief five-year career in context with the world around it. By any measurement, 1966 to 1971 were volatile years in America as the flower-power promise of youth was crushed by a series of horrible assassinations and premature deaths, then silenced by a right-wing political and social snap. The Doors traversed this turmoil mainly due to Jim Morrison's raw sex appeal, mercurial talent and addictive obsessions. In this account, the other three seem like fairly normal guys who never really indulged at all.
Surely the truth lies somewhere in between, but then Morrison isn't around to defend himself. What we have instead is the terrific raw footage: performances, interviews and home movies. And it's especially well-edited into a fluid account accompanied by Depp's almost too-cool narration. Alongside such scenes as the Doors' notorious appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, we clearly see the bandmates' classical and jazz musical influences, which is what made them so unusual at the time (and still today). Not to mention Morrison's passion for film and philosophy.
On stage and off, Morrison oozed charisma, charming everyone with his velvety voice and dazzling grin. Meanwhile, we see that behind the scenes the band was struggling to keep Morrison on his feet, dubbing his destructive side "Jimbo".
DiCillo also documents this side of the story with telling detail, including the legendary Miami concert that almost destroyed the band. Although beyond drug-speak, we never quite understand why they took their name from a William Blake poem: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."
It's rather odd that DiCillo never quite cracks through the legend. Most of this information is already on public record, so the film's real strength is the superb archival footage that shows vividly what all the fuss was about.
Watching the Doors play now is still a revelation, because there's never really been a band like them since. So this film is not only an important document, it's also essential for Doors fans.
Run time: 86 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 12th May 2010
Distributed by: Rhino Entertainment Co.
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 26
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Tom DiCillo
Producer: John Beug, Jeff Jampol, Peter Jankowski
Screenwriter: Tom DiCillo
Starring: Johnny Depp as Narrator, John Densmore as Himself (archive footage), Robby Krieger as Himself (archive footage), Ray Manzarek as Himself (archive footage), Jim Morrison as Himself (archive footage), Jim Ladd as Himself (voice)
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