Blu-Ray Review: THE DOORS

Not a Good Biopic Exactly, But A Fine Portrait of Troubled Genius.

Oliver Stone may forever be accused of making politically-interfering films, informed more by the director's own sensibilities and ideological leanings than on actual fact, but in The Doors, he at least offered an appropriate- and appropriately pretentious- celebration of Jim Morrison's life, death and genius. This is not just a fluff piece or a vehicle simply for the kaleidoscopic music of The Doors, it is punctured and punctuated by a cautionary tale against the evils of celebrity and drugs, and as of this week it's aiming to blow a few minds now on blu-ray. The Doors is of course a sprawling biopic of the legend that was Jim Morrison, focusing on his childhood and college studies, his rise to fame and infamy with the band formed with fellow ex-UCLA students Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan), Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley), and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon), and his untimely death (the controversy and conspiracies of which would themselves make an excellent film). Also taking in Morrison's great love affairs, with Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan) first, and then with journalist Patricia Kennealy (Kathleen Quinlan), his experiments with psychedelic drugs, and his eventual fractious relationship with the band as they became more famous, his multifarious excesses causing frictions and his own belief that he was too big for the band. The script is a little more than pretentious, and at times feels like Stone is trying only to further the stereotypes of hippies- their language infused with the kind of casual but impenetrable poetic mantras that have peppered almost every comedic presentation of such sub-cultures. But then, to a certain extent, that is precisely what Stone is trying to achieve- as the surviving members of the band would say on its release, The Doors shouldn't be considered a biopic really at all, it is more of an attempt to channel the spirit of one man's genius, and present it through the filter of a time long gone. It is a filmic attempt to catch the intangible essence of the 60s, anchored to Morrison's own story. But really, this film is also definitely an extended blow-job for Morrison: not only does it further his mythology, it celebrates his genius at a level that defies logic, presenting him as a messianic figure, heralded by all and fawned over by everyone who comes into contact with him. Stone seems to be as invested in the mythology of his icon as the singer's on-screen audiences are: though he crucially never allows the strange tone of the film, or his variously liberal attitudes to real events to get in the way of a very close presentation of Morrison's rise and fall. But if you're looking for a faithful, historical look at the story of The Doors, this is not the place to look. The Doors seems only to be praised in certain quarters for one thing- the triumph of Val Kilmer's performance in the lead as troubled genius Jim Morrison. And in truth he is mesmerising and riveting, seemingly channelling Morrison's spirit so well that he sounds exactly like him. The rest of the cast are good, particularly Meg Ryan as the put-upon Pamela Courson, though nobody is particularly great, but then this is entirely Kilmer's movie- it is in fact far more successful to consider The Doors as a singular performance than as a traditional film. Kilmer's is as immersive a performance as I have ever seen, one of those irresistible roles in which the actor allows himself to be entirely swallowed up by his subject, and in truth, the film could well have suffered the ignominious fate of disappearing long ago out of collective memory without it. And on the strength of this performance, The Doors deserves to be considered as one of the most interesting- though not one of the actual best- musical biopics ever made. P.S. I still maintain that Johnny Depp uses this Val Kilmer performance as the base for some of his more existential (i.e. wierd) roles- the languid, easy tone pulled over an intricately artistic interior (which is perhaps why I so so utterly convinced for years that it was Depp playing Morrison in the trippy desert sequences of Wayne's World 2).

Quality

This new blu-ray transfer goes some way to addressing the problems of older transfers, which always seemed to look terrible and off-putting. The ageing source problems are now largely gone, and the limited colour palette is presented with fidelity, and with a much more natural filter than ever before, so Stone's intentionally hazy aesthetic is still intact, but now the straight sequences have an added depth and naturalism that serves the overall transfer well. Detail, texture and line-distinction are all a bit of a problem though, thanks to the source and Stone's filming technique, which gives everything a soft hue that was designed to make the film look hazy but which doesn't translate all that well in high-definition. Despite that, it still looks vastly superior to any of the DVD releases, and is the best the film has ever looked, which surely must have been the objective of the blu-ray to begin with. The sound mix is mostly great, especially in the manner it brings the musical score to the screen, and in The Doors' various on-stage performance scenes, which sound very good, with audio depth and clarity existing side-by-side. Overall, this is a very good transfer for a back-catalogue release from Optimum, and one which other studios (cough Universal cough) should take heed from.

Extras

Quite a lot here, in terms of additional time anyway, though sadly Oliver Stone's commentary is largely pretty uninspiring (he doesn't sound bothered at all), and the Vintage Featurette feels far too much like a self-serving promo than anything else. My personal highlight of the Extras is the French made documentary "Jim Morrison: An American Poet in Paris" which focuses on the end of Morrison€™s career and the time he spent living in Paris, as well as investigating his death. The featurette, which is subtitled in English, also includes insightful interviews with people close to him and is easily one of the best films I've seen dedicated to this illustrious subject. Director€™s Commentary with Oliver Stone Jim Morrison: An American Poet in Paris (52 mins) The Road to Excess (38 mins) Deleted Scenes (44 mins) The Doors in LA (19 mins) Vintage Featurette (6 mins) Trailers and TV Spots

The Doors is available to buy on blu-ray now.
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