Thursday, May 23, 2013

#11 The Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin' - The Story of L.A. Woman (2011)

It seems there's a whole industry behind doing one-hour documentaries about old classics. Like the aptly named "Classic Albums" series. One was already made about The Doors' debut album. Although not named as being part of the series this film about "L.A. Woman" seems to follow the exact same recipe.

In order to enjoy these films you first off have to accept that what they do is reinforce rock'n'roll mythology. Not much in the way of critical reviewing. But therefore they can be enjoyable nevertheless - although never really getting neither too exciting or revelatory.

This film first gives a bit of band background and then it goes through the major songs on the album. The band members are seen playing parts and talking about how and why they chose to go "back to the blues roots". But in an hour we only scratch the surface with brief statements not given enough time (although some are expanded in the bonus material). Ray Manzarek seems especially caught up in The Doors myth and sounds like he's been telling this story word-by-word a hundred times before. It is enjoyable to see him playing the old stuff again, though. Exact replica of the albums - not much freeform. But he's like the old favourite uncle with the cool stories and you forgive him.

At some point during the film one does get tired of hearing people say how genius a songwriter Jim Morrison was. To some a brilliant poet, to others a pretentious art student. I fall somewhere in-between depending on the song. But doesn't the best art always divide the crowd down the middle?

Ray, Robby and John very often end up talking about Jim. And also all the trouble surrounding the band back then. All the stuff that has less to do with the music. That was also my problem with both Oliver Stone's 1991 bio-pic "The Doors" and the more recent "When You're Strange" documentary. This one does have more music in it.

In the end the film feels does like a - second - missed opportunity. Everyone is interviewed separately. And it's formulaic. The film would have been infinitely more interesting had they put the three surviving members in the same room. One wonders: Do they still do stuff together? Let alone talk with each other? Or are each of them just  feeding the rock myth - and the royalties it brings with it? If one googles current projects there seem to be some legal battles between band members. But that would not have been right to put in this film.

One thought is unavoidable: These folks are supposedly old hippies (maaan), but the stream of re-issues paint them in a rather capitalistic light. So, well, definitely real hippies 2013 A.D.? Wink wink nudge nudge.

This film doesn't present much new stuff, but it also doesn't at all ruin the enjoyment of an amazing album. One for the fans (who won't find many surprises) and one for the curious newcomer (hungry for a - celebratory - history lesson).

A final note: Right in the middle of writing this review over a few days Ray Manzarek died. It felt kind of strange while listening to all this. From an age when music was recorded live... by a band... in a room. You can still feel that when listening to the records. And it's without a doubt what is missing from most music today - which sounds assembled instead of played. It doesn't breathe the same way. And it does not require the same musicianship that Ray and the others had. These four very different musicians create something unique. Together. Thanks for every single note, Ray!

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