Blu-Ray Review: The Doors (1991)

Oliver Stone manages to capture in The Doors precisely what made the band so compelling – pretentiousness and brilliance all wrapped into one.

There was a level of kismet in how Stone came to detailing the life story of Jim Morrison, the tragic lead singer of the eponymous band. An aspiring filmmaker at the tail end of the 1960’s, Stone missed out on the excessive West Coast counter-culture revolution that the Doors helped fuel, split as he was between serving in Vietnam and living in New York, but he wrote a script which he sent to Morrison—looking to move away from the group that defined him into filmmaking—which tapped into that aesthetic. When he started developing The Doors twenty years later, Stone discovered that Morrison had his script in the Paris apartment where he was found dead in 1971 of heart failure. A sign of filmmaker destiny? Perhaps.

Stone certainly feels like the kind of director who fits the material, given he had built a career before the 1990’s on pictures which depicted the darker side of America’s post-war boom culture, specifically the Vietnam War in films such as Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. Stone understands that the late 60’s saw the death of something cultural and this is very much reflected in the life, career and ultimately demise of Morrison, around whom the film pivots. Without Morrison, there is no The Doors, much like without the front man there was no band, or at least not the same unique, trippy, rock-fuelled quintessence of the Doors at their height. The Doors understands this and Stone wraps his film around Morrison’s languorous, drug-induced egotism.

You can see why The Doors might divide. It’s a film full of life, full of music, full of colour and dappled sun, yet it is surrounded and subsumed by the somber pallor of death and tragedy.

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In the Line of Fire (1993)

In the Line of Fire feels increasingly like a cultural artefact in this day and age. Though in some ways rooted in the 1990’s, in an era divested of the Cold War but away from a future of terrorist uncertainty, there is a political timelessness about Wolfgang Petersen’s movie. It feels at though it exists between two worlds. Barring one exception, this was the last film starring Clint Eastwood in the title role that he didn’t direct and you perhaps feel at times Eastwood wants to jump out of In the Line of Fire and establish his own political sentiments on Jeff Maguire’s script and Petersen’s effective, if at times pedestrian direction.

Eastwood has at times asserted his fairly right-wing political leanings on his filmmaking, most notably in American Sniper, but In the Line of Fire remains essentially neutral in terms of political discourse. The President under threat is never even characterised, beyond the traditional American image of a white, middle-aged man. He could be Reagan. He could be Carter. He could even be Clinton, who was in office at the time. Petersen’s film isn’t concerned with the man Eastwood’s ageing Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan is determined to protect, simply about what protecting a President means.

The film is concerned primarily with age in terms of Frank and indeed America itself. The shadow of John F. Kennedy’s assassination hovers over the picture, given how Frank is, as he modestly describes himself at one point to René Russo’s junior agent, a “living legend”; the only remaining serving agent who was in Dealey Plaza on the day of the President’s assassination in November 1963. Thirty years after the most powerful event in modern American history, In the Line of Fire focuses on a character who has never been able to escape it. Frank, in many respects, is analogous to America as an entity.

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