I watched The Doors (1991) the other day and figured that maybe I’d cap off my series on How to Change Your Mind by reviewing The Doors and making some general observations about Change. After all, the Doors, named after Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, were an important band in the psychedelic 60s, one of those bands where we treated each new album as a potential source of mystical revelation – until, of course, they weren’t. And the movie did have its trippy sequences, its augmented reality sequences.
Except, except, Morrison himself, as presented in the film, was such a disaster. A gifted performer, yes, but as a human being, a disaster. Here’s the opening paragraphs from Roger Ebert’s 1991 review:
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that the problem with American lives is that they have no second act. The problem with Jim Morrison’s life was that it had no first and third. His childhood was lost in a mist of denial - he never quite forgave his father for being an admiral - and his maturity was interrupted by an early death, caused by his relentless campaign against his own mind and body. What he left behind was a protracted adolescence, during which he recorded some great rock ‘n’ roll.
If we can trust Oliver Stone’s new biographical film, “The Doors,” life for Jim Morrison was like being trapped for months at a time in the party from hell. He wanders out of the sun’s glare, a curly haired Southern California beach boy with a cute pout and a notebook full of poetry. He picks up a beer, he smokes a joint, and then life goes on fast-forward as he gobbles up drugs and booze with both hands, while betraying his friends and making life miserable for anyone who loves him. By the age of 27 he is dead. Watching the movie is like being stuck in a bar with an obnoxious drunk, when you’re not drinking.
How could I float a reasonable set of more general observations about psychedelics on a film about all that went wrong about the 60s?
So I shelved the idea for a day or two while I thought about it. Meanwhile, I decided to watch Bugsy, 1991 film about the gangster Bugsy Siegel and his development of The Flamingo Hotel & Casino, which became extremely profitable, though Bugsy was killed because his girlfriend, Virginia Hill, stole $2,000,000 from the project before it opened. As I watched the film, I realized that Bugsy and Morrison where the same person, headstrong narcissistic overgrown adolescents. Morrison was an out-of-control front man for the group, and lyricist, Bugsy was in thrall to his vision for The Flamingo. Where Morrison was a compulsive drunk, Bugsy killed people. Both were womanizers.
What have we got? Two films about the same guy, but expressed through a different mise-en-scène. Both 1991, for what it’s worth, the year of Operation Desert Storm, 42 days of aerial bombardment of Iraq.
I’m still looking for a way to come to terms with How to Change Your Mind.