'The Doors' Is the Film That Made Me Want to Live Slow and Die Old
There's nothing glamorous about throwing it all away too early.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
"I am the lizard king, I can do anything!"
Yeah? Try and walk in a straight line then, you jeb end. These were my thoughts as I watched a drunk Jim Morrison hop on a car and show off to a bunch of gawping pedestrians. He looked like a student on the third night of his Leeds freshers' week. The difference was that the people in the film weren't throwing slices of doner meat at his face. Instead, they were entranced by him.
"Raise your hands if you know you're alive," continued Morrison and, inexplicably, the crowd's middle fingers remained firmly down as their hands went up. There wasn't even a single side-to-side wanker gesture among them. I'm prepared to suspend my disbelief only so far and, at this point, I'd had enough. It had taken a mere 26 minutes of The Doors—the eponymous film about the 60s LA band by Oliver Stone—for all the glamor of Morrison and that intoxicating life to vanish.
Jim Morrison, a film school student with Kevin Keegan hair, appears out of the California haze with tight trousers and full lips. His small-minded film school buddies don't know anything about "real art" so he sacks it off and goes to the beach. There, he finds Meg Ryan and tells her things like: "I feel most alive when confronting death."
It's apparent that she enjoys being clubbed over the head with morbid clichés because they quickly become a couple. He forms a band with some like-minded beach bums and, in between drinking beer and gobbling peyote, they make it big. But he makes it bigger. More famous, more beautiful, and more drunk. And then he's dead, at the age of 27.
I was in Thailand (I'm aware that, as a start to a sentence, that's up there with, "I take cricket bats to barn owls" for alienating your audience, but please bear with me) when I first saw The Doors. It was an appropriate place to watch it because it's full of people who think they'd like to be the same mythologized version of Jim Morrison who appears in the movie—you can tell because they wear $1 tank tops with stencils of his face on them. In fact, watching the movie feels very much like being trapped with ten of those people at the dawn end of a full-moon party. It's obnoxious. Actually, it's worse than that: It makes you feel like you're about to vomit up a stomach full of mushrooms and Bintang.
Oliver Stone blurs every shot so that the whole movie has what, at first, is an alluring shimmer, but after two and a half hours ends up giving you a headache. It's full of dreamlike contortions and warped moments of reality, so that it feels like you're not an observer looking in, but a participant desperate to get out.
There are, of course, the brilliant songs, which provide some much-needed relief from all that nightmarish partying. And the best bits of the film are when a relatively sober Jim Morrison is on a stage in front of an audience singing in that mournful way of his. Which is early on in the film, before the free fall towards self-destruction. Because the thing about self-destructive people is that they're only fun for the first night of the party; bump into them again two days later—their jaws still tense, their skin pallid, and their lips all cracked—and it all quickly becomes very boring and overindulgent.
Drinking too much, turning up late for studio sessions, and generally acting like a cunt is not cool or interesting; it's just dull. I never realized how dull until I watched Oliver Stone's film. After seeing Morrison's self-pitying stumble towards that bath in Paris, the truth about him suddenly became clear. This Jim Morrison depicted in the film is no longer a person; what's worse, he's not even a memory. He's an image on a T-shirt, an iron-on symbol of youth that's getting older each day. If the rock star life leads to wankers in leather wristbands wearing your face like some mark of eternal youth, you can keep it.
Whether Oliver Stone meant it or not, he killed Jim Morrison—or, at least, for me he did. In fact, the very next day, it was to become clear exactly what living like Morrison—even for a few hours—can lead to. To cut a long story short, the next morning after watching the film, I found out that a person I had met the previous night was in the local clinic, having spent the last few hours trying to pull his cock off because he believed it to be an angry adder intent on destroying him. If this person hadn't ingested terrifying quantities of psychoactive "jungle juice," like the gap-year Morrison he was aspiring to be, he may not have distended his dick.
And, as a consequence, he would probably be somewhat happier. You can call me crazy, you can call me boring, but I think that the less time you spend trying tear your own dick off with your bare hands, the better. It would be a definite time waster. And, if Jim Morrison has taught anyone anything, it's that we don't have much of it (time, not cocks) to play with.
When you're young you think you're invincible. In fact, you know it. Death doesn't feel real. It's something Bruce Willis dishes out with ten bullets to the face. It happens to other people. So when a young person dies who also happens to be famous, something paradoxical happens. Even though they're dead, they retain that aura of youthful invincibility forever. And because youth is fetishized by everyone, eternally young famous people inevitably become objects of glamor.
It happens every time. From James Dean right through to Amy Winehouse—the newest member of the 27 Club—people eventually look at them not as tragic warnings, but seductive idols. Which, I suppose, is the way I used to feel. I looked at Morrison, or the idea of him as depicted in The Doors, as something to aspire to. Not that I had a death wish, I just—like most teenagers—wanted to be a little cooler than I was. The Doors was the film that made me realize something obvious but important: we have one very short life, and the only way to make the most of it is by living all of it.
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