Friday, April 16, 2010

When You're Strange (in Georgia)

Hey all,

The brain cells are fading as I get older. A friend recently pointed out that, while I've been posting news, links, interviews, and all the goody stuff about the Doors documentary "When You're Strange" - I haven't yet written a blog about seeing it.

Hearing this was like a DUH slap across the back of my head. Like having my writing critique partner recently say to me, "Um, this scene is great, but why is this character in the kitchen when he's supposed to be out of state?" Again, DUH. I just grimaced and replied, "Because he was back in town in my head?" To which she narrowed her eyes and told me to put that on the page.

Anyway, on to the film. First off and great news, the film's opening weekend numbers did so well (click here to read the article) the film is being released in more cities. Check the site to see if it's playing near you.

So my husband and I trekked down to the Cinefest last weekend to see this Tom DiCillo film, narrated by Johnny Depp, that I've been waiting 2 years to see. I found it amazing and refreshing to talk to the other patrons. There were women there from Kentucky, who'd picked up their friends in Alabama, and driven to Atlanta that morning to make the afternoon show. There were also locals like me, who'd been following its progress and waiting for it to finally come to the big screen. One woman said that had it not opened in Atlanta, she was planning a trip to Europe to see it when it gets released there.

The camaraderie was wonderful and we took our seats. And when the lights dimmed, the magic began. What a ride. DiCillo, with that artistic soul of his, wove pieces of Jim Morrison's own film 'HWY' throughout Doors concerts, rehearsals, photos, and rare footage even some band members had never seen. Out of respect, only outtakes of Morrison's film were used, but the color, angles, and symbolism as Jim wanders through the desert was both haunting and mesmerizing, and served as a motif throughout the film. It was a bold but brilliant move on DiCillo's part, when some audience members were expecting a bunch of talking heads reminiscing about old times. The thing is, the footage and narration tells this story perfectly; talking heads would've spoiled the mood and weren't needed.

I learned things about The Doors that I never knew. For instance, I didn't know Jim had been a filmmaker. I was also struck by a mention that in the height of the band's career, when audiences, women, and money were in abundance, Jim continued to have some self-doubts about his voice. This factoid struck me as wonderfully human, something DiCillo worked hard to convey. He didn't want to follow others' interpretations of Jim by only portraying him like some sex symbol or drunk wild child. The result? Jim and all members of The Doors were portrayed as human beings. As people everyone, even the non-famous, could relate to.

I was awestruck by Ray, Robby and John, and their dedication to their friendship and music with Jim. Many times, they had no idea what he would do on stage, or how it would affect them. They stuck by him anyway. Quite cool.

Johnny Depp did the narration, offering a reverent and unobtrusive way to communicate the information. While I love his Captain Jack Sparrow performance as much as the next gal, I've always admired his quiet, soulful nature like in this film and in personal interviews. (FYI, one of the best interviews I've ever seen of him was on Inside the Actor's Studio. I highly recommend it.)

There was a classic ending line to "When You're Strange" but I won't put that spoiler here. Suffice it to say my husband has been quoting it and making references to it during the past week. Check it out for yourself at the theater if you can. If you aren't near where it's playing, it will air on PBS in May and the DVD should be out in the next few months.

Hopefully DiCillo will be back Stateside before then, as he is stuck in Paris (after doing film press) due to the Iceland volcanic ash.

So there you have it. 5 Stars for this gem of information, artistry, and beauty. Hope you check it out.


Willena said...

I had forgotten that Jim M. was a filmmmaker. I suppose that it was legend around my college campus that he had been a film major there.

The Writers Canvas said...

Hey Willena,

Thanks for commenting :)

The footage of Jim's film was incredible, and it ties the whole film together. Really worth seeing.

I'm pre-ordering the DVD :)


evf said...

I really cannot wait to see the film. Thanks for sharing your perspective and letting me know about the movie. And I've loved Depp since his 21 Jump St. days. :)

The Writers Canvas said...

Thanks for commenting, Evf :) Depp's narration in this is incredible, and hope you enjoy the film! It's expanding to more theaters each day. Check out the main site at for more details.


Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine,

I've been reading some of your posts over at Tom's blog so I found your review link and was anxious to read it. Great job! I knew a LOT about Jim and the band (I even met Ray once) but the never-before-seen footage was such a treat that I will definitely buy the DVD upon its release. I loved how Tom managed to capture so many sides of Jim's persona and how he didn't get in the way of presenting the facts through the footage.

I hope the movie keeps its momentum going!

I'm going to subscribe to your blog. I love to write too.

All the best,

The Writers Canvas said...

Hi Christine,

Many thanks for the kind words and the follow! I try to update the blog a few times per week.

So, welcome!

Glad Tom made it back to NYC last night. Being stranded, even in Paris, gets old when you're not sure when you can get a ticket home.

Saw you liked Delirious too--that's one of my faves :)