Saturday, 9 April 2011

Blu-Ray Review: The Doors

Directed by Oliver Stone

Starring Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon


A bio-pic of the legendary Jim Morrison.


"All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity." - Nietzsche

How do you film a legend? That must have gone through Oliver Stone's mind when he picked up this project. The quote above which is used early on in the movie resonates throughout the film in the same way that the accident that a young Morrison witnessed also does. The movie "The Doors" is not so much a title aimed at the Rock group as it is the quote that created the band name, from William Blake:
"if the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

The film's main focus is on Jim Morrison - a version of him that was wild and crazy and fuelled by hedonism, right up to his tragic death. The band, in the movie, serves only as background characters to the central plot of Jim Morrison and the effect he had on people. Stone shows us what he feels, and what he had learnt, is the man behind the legend.

What we ask from most movies is that we're put on a journey, or witness a journey as we watch. With The Doors, we witness Morrison go from a shy young man to a powerhouse of over-confidence, whilst living the Rock Star life. Whilst we are drawn in, almost, to his drug induced hallucinations and outlook, the character in the movie is not entirely likeable.

Val Kilmer's performance is extraordinary in this film. His performance channels the spirit of Jim Morrison and lays it bare for all of us to see. The only time that Kilmer's grip on the man slips a little is during the iconic photoshoot.

Meg Ryan plays Pam Courson, Morrison's "muse" and soulmate, with a passion, and it may be Ryan's finest performance. So, it's kudos to her that she makes what she can of a role that is mainly a reaction to Morrison and on paper, a fairly ordinary character. Kathleen Quinlan got the better role of Morrison's other love interest; the journalist Patricia Kennealy. Here, we find a woman who seemed to tap into the bad side of Morrison and exploited it for all it was worth. At least this is what the movie is saying. There's an implication that she was responsible for Morrison maintaining his more tortured outlook in life, but naturally this is reduced to a throwaway line. Both characters condense a number of women, influential on Morrison’s life at the time.

The movie doesn't judge Morrison and his declining behaviour but shows his band members reactions. For a homage (and Stone has described his movie as such in an interview), the movie falls well short, as Morrison is portrayed as an unlikeable person for most of the two-hour twenty minute running time. There is too much emphasis on Morrison the singer who was obsessed with death and not enough of the intelligence behind it all. Oliver Stone doesn’t see it this way but it is there. This is not how I would expect a man who “loved” Morrison as a hero, portray him, despite approximately 120 witnesses providing information. However, Stone should be applauded for attempting to make an interesting and musical movie that at least keeps the spirit of the band alive.

For this reason there is still plenty for me to like about the movie including the terrific soundtrack which Val Kilmer contributed to, thus setting the standard for actors in future bio-pics such as Ray, and Walk The Line. Recreations of actual gigs and events are also spectacular and effective.

The cinematography is beautiful especially the colourful scenes centred on Venice Beach and the Blu-Ray format shows us this in all its glory.

The Doors, if watched as an experience rather than a detailed and accurate bio-pic, has much to offer fans of the music and casual viewers alike. This Blu-Ray release is the best way of watching it outside of the cinema.
My main gripe is also true of the recent feature length documentary by Tom Dicillo called “When You’re Stranger”; that the emphasis is on Morrison the alcoholic and drug fuelled hellraiser. At least in Stone’s movie we do see a little of the softer side of Morrison, unlike in the documentary.

There’s still a more balanced story to be told about Jim Morrison, the man, as opposed to the alcoholic Lizard King, Mr Mojo Risin, and Jimbo versions of his personality.

Score 7/10

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