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 '60s funhouse, 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 clichéd barrage of achronological 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 Queens' 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 anti-career. 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.
Morrison plays to the crowd.
Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., April 9–Thurs., April 15. Rated R. 90 minutes.