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When You're Strange review

Make up your own mind about the Doors frontman with this delving doc

Poet or pretentious pillock? Whatever your take on Jim Morrison, The Doors’ sex-reptile frontman, his charisma helps electrify Tom DiCillo’s flawed but intermittently thrilling documentary.

The US indie veteran opens up The Doors’ story with a connoisseur-ish assemblage of rare archive footage, bucking the standard option of talking heads for something immersed and immediate.

The approach has drawbacks, notably a lack of any challenge to Morrison’s mystique: Johnny Depp’s narration dishes fawning bromides and any glances at context are merely cursory. But as the typically unpredictable but entertaining Jim trips out onstage in West Hollywood – while his often-unsung band conjure dreamy swirls of improvisatory sound around him – the good stuff kicks in.

The Doors’ trajectory from Sunset Strip to fame, infamy (with over 32m albums sold in their homeland alone) and tragedy rips along at a rollercoaster pace. En route, Morrison makes a magnetic spectacle out of narcissism.

This is a fan’s film, with all the flaws that entails, but doubters might emerge converted.

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