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The London Movie Meetup Group Message Board › When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors

When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors

Wilber W.
London, GB
Post #: 2,597
When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors
Worlds Greatest Rockstar- Homeless

Jim Morrisson: He was essentially homeless.
An observation by director Tom Dicillo on the life of Jim Morrisson after meeting and interviewing those who knew him during his brief but active life

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a 23 year old (fellow) American man. He was trying to recall some well know rock act from his parents time. "Led.. Something..." He had no idea who Led Zeplin was! This despite being a Dartmouth educated, world traveled, generally cottoned on kind of guy.

As a punk rocker from way back you cannot know how satisfying that was for me personally to see that FM prog rock is not receiving the verdict of history. But what saddens me on reflexion is that so much of what was in even popular music which reflected much more of what was going on in society than mass media at the time wished to acknowledge is also being washed away from the historic memory. I think Jim Morrisson's legacy reflects this, more so as time progresses.

Jim Who?...(Some of you might be asking), ...and perhaps~ why should I care? This is not a homelessness group, nor a music appreciation society. I think it may be relevant, so I wanted to share it with this group; hear me out.

Jim Morrisson (for those who do not know) was THE most massive rock star of his age. He was innovative~ many of the musical stylings and even cliches of Rock stardom began with Jim Morrisson, unlike anything musically or other wise in his time. He lived only till the age of 27.

Jim Morrisson began his adult life as a homeless person. Perhaps due to his strict family background and never settling in one place his homelessness began before he left home. Judging from The filmmaker's Blog (See bellow) perhaps he never left his homelessness.

There are all different types of Homelessness, different layers to the Homelessness consciousness within a person. Homelessness cannot be all summed up with a roof or not having a roof over one's head. It's how it feels and effects a person psycolocicaly

Jim Morrisson was absolutely acting out from a repressive background from his teens till his premature death at age 27. It's a shame he did not live long enough to really pull himself out of psychological homelessness, before killing himself due to lack of care. He also, along the way created an entire genre of music, a huge platform to tell the world a lot of things about themselves that they might not have wanted to otherwise hear. It's amazing what people can produce despite of, (or because of) their "homelessness"

Wilber Webb

When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors

Some observations on Jim Morrisons life from those who knew him
From Director Tom Dicillo's Blog
Great Photos http://www.tomdicillo...­

The theatrical life of When You’re Strange is fading away. I’ve spent months talking about this film. Sometimes, when I least expect it, I get the strangest feeling that I’ve actually learned a few things on this crazy trip.

Jim’s father was a career Navy officer who retired as an Admiral. The Morrison family moved frequently to different naval bases around the country

Jim’s sister Anne told me me how she, Jim and their younger brother Andy took a navy shuttle bus into the base movie theater one night to watch a John Wayne movie. It was around 1955; Jim was maybe 12. At this time it was a requirement on military bases for audiences to stand while the National Anthem played. Jim, half in joke and half in patriotic fervor, stood and started singing at the top of his lungs. He was the only one singing and he sang the whole song.

I can see him doing this pretty clearly. I rode on those same military buses as a kid. My father was a Colonel in the Marine Corps. When I was 12, in 1965, I’d already moved 6 times.

The buses were driven by enlisted men in fatigues with really short hair. They’d been instructed to enforce complete silence. On the way to school the boys were seated on one side and the girls on the other. If a kid talked they were made to sit on the other side. The idea was that this would be humiliating, primarily for the boys, and would thereby prompt obedience. I can’t remember a single instance where a girl showed anything more than annoyonce in being forced to cross the aisle.

In elementary school the same No Talking rule applied during lunch. Boys and girls were permitted to sit together in the lunchroom though very few did. So, the punishment for talking was having your lunch taken away.

Even at 9 years old I suspected there was something absurdly tyrannical about making a room full of kids eat in complete silence. Once, a small, timid girl cried out at a sudden crack of thunder. The teacher, a clumping, thick-legged woman immediately took her lunch away. The girl sat stricken, fighting back tears. As distraught as she was I knew she was also starving.

I got up, walked over and gave her half my sandwich. The teacher glared at me but did nothing.

An equally rigid set of rules existed at home.

My father’s word was law. No one ever contradicted him. My mother, though sympathetic, bought into the chain of command and when push came to shove, which it frequently did, she always sided with the commander.

There was no television in the house. C’s on report cards and other infractions brought punishment from my father, usually with the belt to his uniform trousers. One of the worst came after I let a screen door slam.

This kind of discipline is designed with a single purpose; to create absolute obedience. It is the essence of the military. Survival depends on orders being obeyed instantly. Any questioning or hesitation from an individual could result in death or defeat for the entire group.

But, for a child this kind of discipline can crush a soul. Questioning is the essence of Life. It is how we learn to see. It is how we determine our own thoughts, how we develop the personality that is totally particular, special and unique to ourselves.

The struggle against a parent inflicting this kind of discipline is really one of life and death. There is no middle ground. To buy into it even a little means keeping a part of yourself subjugated, voiceless and inferior.

To fight it means standing up in the face of it and declaring, “It is either you or me.”
Wilber W.
London, GB
Post #: 2,598
Apparently, this is exactly what Jim Morrison did.

There is no evidence that Admiral Morrison included physical abuse in disciplining his children. Anne Morrison recalls her father with great fondness and affection.

But, Jim swung out of the family nucleus very early. He left home to go to college; first in Florida, then in California at UCLA. When he ran into Ray Manzarek a few months after graduating, he had no money, no job and was living on someone’s roof a few blocks from the ocean near Venice Beach.

He was essentially homeless.

Wilber W.
London, GB
Post #: 2,599


A little more than a year later Jim, Ray, John Densmore and Robby Krieger released their first album as the Doors. Jim’s separation from his family was already so entrenched they barely knew he was in a band. Andy found out the Doors had made a record only when a friend showed him the album and said one of the guys on the cover looked a little like his brother, Jim.

Although Jim later claimed he was only joking one wonders how Andy and the rest of the family reacted when they read the way he described them in the album’s liner notes:

Jim took the name of the band from this line in a poem by William Blake. It not only shows what Morrison was reading as a teenager; it also gives a glimpse into what his mind was turning on to.

Blake is suggesting if we cleared all the obstacles in our vision we would see life as it is; an alternately fascinating and terrifying mystery. Some of the things that keep us from seeing are the institutions we’ve set up to provide meaning and order; massive social cornerstones like Government, School, Religion and Family.


Although well-intentioned, each of these can become oppressive; serving as walls against any real self-discovery or awareness. The goal is to see things as they are, not as other people tell us they are. This takes courage. It is not easy to see so openly, and so honestly. It is painful, frightening and in some cases it brings complete alienation.

Perhaps this is why the Doors music resonates so deeply with those who’ve never felt they belonged anywhere.


It is impossible to know what really went on inside the Morrison family but Jim’s exit from it was permanent. Whatever he saw there pushed him out into the void with a vengeance. Home for him was someplace completely different.

As maddening and frustrating as it was to his friends and bandmates, his only responsibility seemed to be total freedom. He plunged headfirst into chaos in every performance. And, having survived, the next night he seemed obligated to go even further.

Few have pushed themselves so far and so frequently as Jim Morrison did. It seems part of his DNA. His girlfriend Pam asked him why he exhausted himself at an early show when he knew he had another one to give in an hour. His response was genuine surprise, “Why not? I might not live to the next one.”

Ray told me this story: shortly after that fateful meeting on the beach in Venice, Ray invited Jim to move in with him and his girlfriend, Dorothy. It all went pretty well for a while, with the two of them writing music, rehearsing and playing a few gigs. Then one day Ray looked at Jim’s hair and suggested he get it cut.

Jim erupted, screaming at Ray, “Don’t you ever tell me what to do!” Though they remained close friends Jim moved out, permanently.


The issue of hair in the military is intense. For the first 17 years of my life I had a crew-cut. It was barely tolerable in the early 60’s but when the family moved to California in 1968 it was excruciating. My junior high school was in town, outside the Marine base. I was literally the only one in it with short hair. Kids used to walk up to me in the hall and laugh in my face. Every plea to my father to let me grow my hair was refused. In fact, punishment for my brother and me now started with a visit to the military barber who was instructed to shave our heads even closer.

The ban was finally lifted when I went away to college. I’ve never cut my hair short since.

But, not every child from a military family goes through this kind of trauma. It takes something more than haircuts and discipline.

Before the Doors made their first record Jim approached a wealthy friend of his father for a loan. The friend told Admiral Morrison of the request and asked his advice. In a letter recounting this event Jim’s father writes: See Link

There is a lot of subtext in these few lines. I’m struck by both men’s concern over the length of Jim’s hair. But, even more significant is Admiral Morrison’s insistence the friend turn Jim down. He was completely oblivious to Jim’s gift. The gulf between them was so great he seemed to have no idea who his son was.

The myth of Family is a powerful one. It proclaims that family connections are sacred and should be maintained at all costs. We all buy into this; understandably. Who wants to be an orphan? But, I think sometimes the cost can be too high. I think sometimes maintaining family connections can only perpetuate pain and disappointment.

Jim Morrison chose to cut himself loose from them. It could have been an act of supreme selfishness; a childish cry for attention. Or it could have been a statement: I will be what I am, not what you say I am.

In any case, it took balls.

That’s one of the things I learned in making this film.

Wilber W.
London, GB
Post #: 2,600
The film is no Longer in release in The UK nor North America, but it is a massive summer blockbuster hit all across France. ...Vive La France!

VIDEO http://culturebox.fra...­

When You’re Strange, the Doors documentary, directed by Tom DiCillo, reached 55 099 admissions in France in one week, on 55 prints. They now have 105 prints in operation.

It is the best opening of a musical documentary in France in a long time. French film goers overwhelmingly voted in favour of the band with a rating outside cinemas of 93% (Source Ecran Total / Observatoire de la Satisfaction).

Along with the newsstand Special Edition of the Magazine ‘Trois Couleurs’ dedicated to the group and a soundtrack released by Rhino France, Tom DiCillo’s film reinforces the myth and reveals the true cult of the Doors, especially with the young public.

In its second week, French distributor MK2 Diffusion, has added 37 prints, which adds up to a total of 92 copies in France. When You're Strange­

Music documentaries can fall victim to one but major snare: in the rush to heap praise up its subject, a fair and balanced review of the work is discarded. Tom DiCillo's documentary on The Doors, who were at the spearhead of the '60s counterculture, is guilty of making them come across nothing more than an above average rock band. The Doors were anything but.

DiCillo's documentary opens with excerpts from Morrison's 1969 film HWY: An American Pastoral; Morrison is driving through the desert as news of his own death blares out from the radio. That's taken over by Johnny Depp's narration, which paints a picture of the '60s prior to the advent of Morrison and The Doors - the Kennedy assassination, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, the rise of the youth counterculture, the decade was primed for a band such as this. Then it's on to Morrison's background, his childhood, his obsession with Elvis, his attendance at UCLA, and his first meeting with Ray Manzarek. The narration is constant as it whizzes through the band's early history (opening gigs for The Turtles, Buffalo Springfield and Van Morrison), the cultivation of the Morrison image and the rise and rise of The Doors from cult college band to international stardom.

When You're Strange gets as much right as it does wrong. First and foremost it's an information kiosk - it was surprising to hear that Robby Krueger wrote so many songs, that he just picked up an electric guitar six months before joining the band and that Light My Fire was the first song he ever penned. The documentary is a perpetual stream of unseen archive footage of early gigs, TV spots and behind-the-scenes making of The Soft Parade album, which documents the beginning of Morrison's slide into alcohol and drug dependency. There are no talking heads to break up the momentum, no contemporary revisionist interviews - DiCillo is determined to make When You're Strange a time capsule: The Doors existed in the '60s and early '70s and that's where this documentary will stay. We have only Depp's after-the-fact narration to guide us through and it's here that When You're Strange falls down.

Depp's narration is constant throughout but as with his commentary on Gonzo: The Life And Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson the actor comes across as bored - unable or unwilling to give the tired script life. He isn't helped with embarrassing lines like "You can't burn out if you're not on fire," and "His soul was trapped between heaven and hell." Riddled with cliches, the narration can be laughable at times. But DiCillo's biggest crime is turning Morrison and co. into nothing more than another '60s rock band that had a few hits before their frontman died. There are tons of concert footage where enraptured crowds breathe in every word but the why, however, is missing here. As Morrison said himself, "I have nothing to say." Neither does When You're Strange.

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