As the nation limbers up for the onslaught ofJim Morrison mania, Alastair Mabbott considers OLIVER STONE‘s latest film The Doors and finds flaws its depiction of the Lizard King.
e‘s back — sloughing off. like the lizard. his old skin. the new dermis soft and shiny underneath. Jim Morrison has risen. Admittedly. it‘s taken him twenty years rather than three days. but who‘s counting? At this moment. he's bigger than Lennon. than Dylan. than Jagger. than Elvis — damn it. he‘s even stolen The Clash‘s moment of glory —- and by this time next decade. the history books might well have him pegged as the greatest rock star ofall time. And why not. eh‘.’ It‘s only because of rocks comparative youth that it hasn‘t suffered the extreme swings of fashion that art. classical music and literature have over the centuries — and when. in the last 30 years. has there been a more iconic image
than that famous head—and-shoulders shot of E
Morrison in crucifixion pose‘.’
You know things are heating up when Simon Bates broadcasts his show live from Morrison‘s Parisian graveside. and dedicates an edition of ‘()ur Tune‘ to his immortal memory. lt's Turtlemania II! The 20th anniversary ofJimi Hendrix‘s death. last year. was a tasteful. Bring Your Own Booze affair — the customary avalanche of books. repackaged hits. a South Bank Show — but to make possible the kind ofintensity that Morrison‘s resurrection has sparked. you need 'l‘l ll; MOVIE.
Oliver Stones The Doors is the best stab at a rock biopic since The Buddy Holly Story. but it‘s closer still to Amadeus in its ambition. its refusal to stay out of your face
12'1 he List 1‘) April — 2 May 1991
for a single moment and its momentous potential to infuriate. Val Kilmer‘s performance as Morrison is one of its indisputable triumphs. Acting with total conviction. energy and magnetism. he becomes the part. and when he augments his frame with the required beard. weight and shabby army jacket for the later scenes. the resemblance is especially eerie. The Doors“? The title is a bluff: it‘sJim all the way. Kyle (Twin Peaks) MacLachlan plays keyboard player Ray Manzarek as Agent (‘ooper in an increasingly improbable series of wigs. but at least he‘s compellingly gormless. Stone makes no pretence at being even slightly interested in the other two Doors. guitarist Robby Krieger (played by Frank Whaley) and drummer John Densmore ( Kevin Dillon). When not on stage. in the film‘s electrifying live sequences. the greatest challenge to their thespian skills is to stand around looking awkward. By the end (not ‘The lind‘). they‘re very good at it indeed.
So it‘s a one-man show. Jim Morrison. lizard King‘. ‘lirotic politician'. ‘Shaman‘. But whose Jim‘.’ Study enough first—hand accounts and you‘ll find one thing that everyone agrees upon: they all knew a different .lim Morrison. Most of them claim to know the ‘real‘ one.
John Lennon's personality too was a snarled-up box of loose and sparking connections. but his public image. passed down through countless books. magazine articles and documentaries. has assimilated that — although some very rielz and/)owerful
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people. whose reputations depend on it. are enjoying a degree of success in establishing an official version of the Lennon legend. When the right actor comes along. they‘ll have achieved their aim. Different intentions. same result: the wind blowing out of the (ills has changed. and Oliver Stone has frozen at mercurial personality into one expression. We can all know the same Jim Morrison now. His name is Val Kilmer.
‘l‘m very subjective about it. and I think it‘s really difficult to be objective.‘ says Stone. in a pleasingly Jack Lemmon~y accent. a Vietnam veteran who made his cinematic mark with Salvador. Platoon. Wall Street and Born On The Fourth ()fJu/y. and whose next project is a film about John F. Kennedy‘s assassination. ‘I don‘t think objectivity really truly exists. because the object is on the move and you‘re on the move and it‘sa shifting spectrum. . . Let‘s say that Jim lived 24 hours and most people lived three hours of his life. They took shifts on the clock with him. like you knew him from 3am to ham. or you knew him from 9pm to midnight. I don‘t think he slept until the day he died. I think he had that all-consuming desire to really embrace life at every level. So nobody really knew him that well. Except maybe Pamela. and she J