'When You're Strange' looks at Doors, Morrison with fresh sensibility, footage

Still image captured from HWY: AN AMERICAN PASTORAL, a film by Jim Morrison, Frank Lisciandro, Paul Ferrara, and Babe Hill. The film was shot April 2-9, 1969 in the Mojave Desert, with additional location shooting taking place in both Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.
Still image captured from HWY: AN AMERICAN PASTORAL, a film by Jim Morrison, Frank Lisciandro, Paul Ferrara, and Babe Hill. The film was shot April 2-9, 1969 in the Mojave Desert, with additional location shooting taking place in both Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY HANK STUEVER AND PUBLISHED BY WASHINGTON POST ON MAY 12, 2010.

Mr. Mojo rises all the time, or he tries to. Jim Morrison, shirtless and arms outstretched, is still a dorm-room poster, sort of like the philosopher-stoner's decorative crucifix. The flowers and poems still collect at his Paris grave site. The music of the Doors eternally conjures up an apocalyptically cool Los Angeles vibe.

And to think, if Morrison were alive, he'd be 66 and guest-mentoring on "American Idol" or something. Perish the thought. Soon enough (next year), it will be four decades since Morrison died in a bathtub. More startling, somehow, is that it's been almost 20 years since Val Kilmer played Morrison in Oliver Stone's mediocre biopic, "The Doors."

Filmmaker Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors" cannot lay claim to any new thoughts about (or meaning to) the Doors' 54-month journey together in the late 1960s and early '70s -- a journey that, we are told by narrator Johnny Depp, resulted in 80 million records sold. "When You're Strange" made the film-circuit rounds last year and has its TV debut Wednesday night on PBS's "American Masters."

What DiCillo has (and, really, all anyone wants from '60s rockumentaries anymore) is lots and lots of terrific footage, much of it previously unseen. The Doors, whose members met in UCLA film school, were nothing if not well filmed. There are also pristine and arresting outtakes from Morrison's own stab at filmmaking, a 1969 arthouse project called "HWY: An American Pastoral." So clean is this print of "HWY" that viewers at film festivals interpreted it as DiCillo's freshly filmed reenactment of Morrison's druggy descent into the metaphorical desert. (Nope, that's actually Morrison, in his own film.)

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