How many people know one of Jim Morrison’s favorite blues singers was a cat named Arlen Condrell? Arlen was in a band called The Bottom Feeders. He died penniless in Chicago at 47, in 1961. In one of Morrison’s notebooks I discovered this fragment of Arlen’s lyrics:
Go fuck yourselves, my petty friends.
Go fuck yourselves, said he.
Get busy with your sweaty hands
Cuz you sure ain’t fuckin me.
I can appreciate Morrison’s appreciation. I left NYC and relocated to LA for over 9 months to write and edit this film. Some people, knowing literally nothing about me, have accused me of only being a “director for hire.” Well, hire this; I’ve been working on this film for nothing since May, 2008. If anyone thinks I’d go through all this just to make a piece of shit then all I can say is,
Sing it again, Arlen.
I apologize for nothing. I’m not sorry some Sundance critics didn’t get it. That’s their problem, not mine. Sure, some of the hissy-bitchy press is annoying. But, it’s not going to stop me and it’s not going to stop this film from being seen and appreciated by people open enough to make up their own minds.
The most obvious sign of a useless review is one that refuses to identify anything that is good in a film. And I can say without question there are many successful things in When You’re Strange.
Using rarely seen footage of an obscure Doors concert, and a scratchy audio tape, my editors and I create an 8 minute scene that puts you right in the seats at the Miami Dinner Key Theatre. It, like many other scenes, plays entirely without narration. It is an amazing sequence; especially since the only thing that exists from that pivotal moment is this audio tape and a few b/w photos of Morrison.
The film uses outtakes from Morrison’s own film HWY and creates a character who becomes the spirit of Morrison wandering throughout the film; as if he’s searching for the meaning of the Doors, and of himself. There are moments watching Morrison here that are intimate and disturbing. John Densmore told me it moved him to tears.
If a critic isn’t honest enough to point out the things of value then I trust nothing they say. It simply shows they are blind in one eye and bloodshot in the other.
To the fans that are chewing over these “reviews”, re-posting them over and over, saying things like, “This is definitely affecting my reaction to film,” all I can say is, why are you perpetuating this horseshit? Why are you wallowing in this pit of negativity?
“You’re all a bunch of slaves! Lettin’ other people tell you what to do!!”
Jim Morrison. Dinner Key Theatre. Miami, Fla.
True Doors fans know that the critics tore the band apart when Waiting for The Sun was released. The fans didn’t listen to the critics then; they supported their band and bought the album, leading the Doors to their 3rd gold record. This refusal to blindly accept the opinions of others is what I respect most about the Doors, second only to the great, dark beauty of their music.
You want to trash the film? Then do it based on your own reactions, not the hysterical squealings of others. Maybe it isn’t the greatest film ever made about the Doors. Maybe it doesn’t prove once and for all that it is actually Jim’s face on the Shroud of Turin.
But, there is much that it does do. I know there are a lot of devoted Doors fans out there. I respect your great passion for this great band. Instead of strangling it in the crib perhaps you could show the film the respect of simply giving it a chance.
The one thing I underestimated is how personally the Doors music affects people. Everyone feels it is talking directly to them. They feel like they own it, that it belongs to them. I feel this myself and I never intended to violate that in others. I never wanted to tell anyone what to think. My only intent was to let the film tell the story. I used too many words. I’m fixing that. But, the words I used are true. I got them directly from Ray, John and Robby.
At Sundance, Robby came up to me and said, “I just want to thank you.”
“For what?” I asked.
He looked away for a moment then said quietly, “For letting people know I wrote “Light My Fire.”
This film is for all the people out there who didn’t know that.
It’s for all the people who knew that and appreciate that I felt it was crucial to point it out.
Anyone who thinks this information is useless can go fuck themselves. And I mean that in the most sincere way possible; exactly the way Arlen Condrell meant it.
That exchange with Robby was deeply rewarding. Nothing I’ve read or heard since will ever take that away from me. I’d rather have that moment with him than any “good” review. The fact is, there were a great many positive reactions to the film at the festival.
Unknown to me, Sting was in the audience at the premiere. He loved the film and was very moved by it. The reason I know this is that he found me a day later and told me so himself. It wasn’t his celebrity that impressed me. It was the fact the appreciation was coming from another musician.
The audience at the screening in Salt Lake City applauded after the film. Almost all of the 300 people stayed for the Q & A which was enthusiastic and 100% positive. Jim Southwick, manager of John Densmore’s website was at the screening.
“The first thing you are struck with is the clarity and brilliance of the footage. Scenes that were once a dull backdrop are now being presented in a vibrant movie style. The concept of using this footage for the beginning soundtrack is completely unexpected and from a point of creativity – I thought brilliant.
There is a scene with Jim that really struck me as to his innocence, his playfulness, and his humanness. We finally get some decent billing on the musicians that were as much a part of The Doors as the vocalist. I felt the movie was a success in its concept and in its execution.”
Kerry Humpherys, editor of The Doors Collectors Magazine, was also in the audience.
“The 90-minute film consists of a plethora of vintage clips sewn together to make a cohesive patchwork that tells the story of The Doors in a way you have never before imagined. You may have heard the Doors’ story before, but this movie visualizes the experience in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
As the film begins, the viewer is treated to some of the unseen footage from Morrison’s HWY that was provided by photographer, Paul Ferrara. For many years, there has been a stranglehold on all of the HWY footage, but DiCillo broke through those barriers and provided us with nothing less than high definition on the big screen. I was blown away after five minutes and it just got better.”
I understand how possessive fans are about the Doors but I am astonished at how destructive that ownership can get. Ray, John and Robby share my astonishment. They all endorse and embrace this film. It is their story. They told it to me. Do these other “experts” really think they know the story better than the band themselves? Perhaps they feel the Doors’ lives, their souls and even their identities belong to them as well.
No one owns the Doors. But, clearly there are some out there who will never allow the Doors to be what they are; human beings.
“When You’re Strange” director Tom DiCillo has done a great job pulling together lots of previously unseen footage of Jim Morrison. In fact, DiCillo is the first filmmaker ever to make Morrison seem like a real person who was very insecure, troubled, and haunted. The film is one of the few that offers anything new or revelatory on the pre-digested Doors myth, and should garner a nice sized audience when it’s finally released.”
Roger Friedman, Fox News
This film was never meant to be the eternal encyclopedia about the Doors. It was never meant to solve all the rumors and myths. Its sole intent was to use only the original footage to allow the audience feel the band, and their time, as they were. And out of this, hopefully develop a new myth; one of respect and admiration for them all as musicians, as artists and as individuals.
There is no hidden shit here. The emotional core is right there on the screen. Clearly, that truth is affecting people. The film premieres in Europe next month at the Berlin Film Festival. There is strong activity from foreign buyers and real interest in a US theatrical release. Soon fans can see it for themselves and open their own Doors of perception.
By the way, this just in.