When You’re Strange has finished its two screenings at the LA Film Festival. Many of you have written in with your comments and reactions which I greatly appreciate. Early word seems to be that the film was well received. I could not be there but I wrote a brief statement which was read before both screenings.
In addition, a separate screening was held for Johnny Depp and a number of others, including John Densmore. Johnny Depp’s reaction to the film was strong and positive. He appeared deeply moved and expressed gratitude at being asked to contribute.
Jac Holzman was also at this screening. Holzman is the founder of Elektra Records. He first saw the Doors at the Whisky in LA and is solely responsible for signing them and introducing them to the world. His influence guided the Doors throughout their career. He nurtured them, encouraged them and fiercely protected their desire to make the music exactly the way they wanted.
After the screening he wrote me a letter. I’m copying it here not because I want people to see another “positive” opinion of the film. When I first started work on the film I was almost paralyzed with terror at the enormity of the task that confronted me. Not only did I have to discover something truthful in myself to say about this brilliantly complex band, I had to find a way to put that on film.
Holzman’s words, coming from someone who knew the Doors with infinitely more intimacy than I ever could, are actually more of a relief than anything.
Tom – I saw the screening over the weekend and was just knocked out. There have been many attempts at a Doors film AND so many abject failures that I had despaired of anyone getting it “right.” And by “right” I meant just letting the band and their music hit a contemporary audience full blast.
I have lived with The Doors for 43 years and understand that the sheer power and danger of the group had to come out through their music even more than in live performance footage. You got that just right. In the context of all the music that flowed into the mighty rock ‘n’ roll tributary, The Doors still excite, chill, inform and challenge the listener.
The canny addition of the HWY material as context-within-context, the intense editing without showiness, sound mixing , Johnny Depp’s subtle phrasing and solid narration all fuse into one of the great films about music and the crazy, driven people who have no choice but to create it. Pondering the movie later I realized what guts it took for Ray, Robbie and John even to get on a stage with Jim. Only the best and most committed musicians could have made that work.
When You’re Strange viscerally plugs into that tremulous period when The Doors represented the furthest edge to which one might aspire without actually getting arrested. I’ve alerted my associates at Warner Music Group about the June 30th screening in New York. I’ve told them this is a “must see” music movie.