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The Doors
cast: Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Frank Whaley, and Michael Madsen

director: Oliver Stone

138 minutes (R) 1991
widescreen ratio 16:9
Artisan DVD Region 1 rental

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Robin Landry
The Doors, while certainly well made, is hard to watch. Val Kilmer plays the self-destructive Jim Morrison, lead singer of the legendary rock band of the late 1960s, and he does a mind-numbing job of playing a man hell bent on destroying himself. While the movie never tells us why Morrison was so eager to meet death, it does show us the downward spiral that finally leads to the singer's death at the young age of 27. During one concert, Morrison refuses to see his father, and during one press conference, Morrison tells reporters his parents died in a car crash, the same one the movie opens with, only Morrison's parents are alive and well. Early on we see a dying Native American shaman who then haunts Morrison for the rest of his life. Through Morrison's writing, we see death as a central theme as if his early boyhood experience of seeing death by the side of the road shaped his whole life. Images of the Native American shaman continue throughout the movie with Native Americans dancing around a bonfire at a concert, to Morrison's stage antics echoing the way a shaman dances while looking for the way to enter the spirit world.
   Pam (Meg Ryan) follows Morrison through his life catching him when he falls but having no one when she finally cracks. Pam dies three years after Morrison though she says over and over again in the movie that she just wants to live. Val Kilmer's portrayal of Morrison is dead-on, and though his voice sounds the same, it lacked the pathos and the depth of Morrison. There was a great deal going on behind Morrison's music, his voice and his poetry that Kilmer couldn't even imagine. Kilmer does a great job portraying the dark side of Morrison but I didn't see the whole picture of the man who could write poetry like Morrison's. Even the name of the band speaks volumes of the depth of Morrison. The Doors name came from a Blake poem talking about the doors of perception. Sure everyone was looking for a way to connect with the universe in the 1960s but even with the drug taking and what went with it, I doubt many found it. Morrison, as noted through is writing, found a way in. But, like so many geniuses that find a way to connect with the universe and bring it out to the masses, Morrison was destined to be disappointed. The movie shows how Morrison wanted to be more than just a rock idol, noted for his good lucks and sex appeal, but few could relate to what he was saying. Morrison didn't appear to have the grounding needed to realise that the vultures surrounding him wanted an easy fix. They needed Morrison to connect with something higher than themselves, which is why they didn't understand his music. In the end, fame seduced Morrison and, like his other vices, he found it hard to give it up.
   To have given us this rare glimpse inside the mind of a true genius, Oliver Stone deserves a great deal of credit. To even understand what Morrison was about takes all kinds of insight. Stone does more than just make a movie of a self-destructive rock star. He gives us the story of a complex man who couldn't control himself and so, wasted his gift. That's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.
   As the movie shows us, the Doors are not just Jim Morrison. The band members Robby Kreiger (Frank Whaley), John Densmore (Kevin Dillon) and Ray Manzarek (Kyle McLachalan, from TV's Sex In The City) try to keep Morrison tied to earth, co-writing the songs and giving Morrison's poetry a haunting musical accompaniment but, in the end, nothing can stop Morrison's desire to "break on through to the other side."
   The DVD special edition shows the scenes that were cut for one reason or another. Seeing them gives an even more complete picture of the troubled man that Jim Morrison was and why the Doors' music haunts us still.
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