Get him to the Greek
At several points in the progression of the film, the sickly embodiment of the British rock scene explains his behavior as “That’s Rock & Roll!!”, a concept amenable to some exploration.
The medium of Rock has always been one of rebellion against conformity and conventionality. The musicality selects strains and chords evolved to selectively pull resonant strings of the human brain, abandoning order. Those drawn in march to their own desultory beat. Normally composed hominids become temporarily irrational and start ripping out seats at a Jerry Lee Lewis concert. Jerry Lee lights a piano on fire and is carried out with it by firemen, still playing. A surging crowd trying to get prime seats at a Who concert trample and kill eleven people. Concert-goers assault the Rolling Stones on stage at Altamont resulting in one death at the hands of the Hell’s Angels. Dimebag Darrel of Pantera is assassinated on stage.
The medium selects for those who actively live the dream. Rock is a high-risk high gain proposition. Those selected as the cast had no safety net and were drawn in at their jeopardy. Duane Allman thought he was immune to laws of traffic. Bonzo and Moonie thought they were immune to the toxicity of ethanol. Janis Joplin made love to 10,000 fans at the Fillmore and then went home alone. Hendrix couldn’t sleep without escalating soporifics that ultimately put him to sleep forever. Cobain chose the brief pain of a shotgun blast to end the constant pain of his life. Jim Morrison died alone in a bathtub.
Ray Manzrek has always said it was Jim Morrison’s karma to explore the outer reaches of human perception for vicarious onlookers from a safe vantage. Jim remains a stolid personification of Rock ideals; release from reason, self-validating expression and the quest for fulfillment in alternative consciousnesses. Watching him is a fascinating experience. He embodies total absorption with the unexplored universe of the mind. He doesn’t understand it either but he most definitely feels it. He takes us there, but we are ultimately as perplexed as he. We are a captive audience as we pass through the Doors of Perception. I still get that feeling all these years later.
Rock is the stuff of existential anti-heroism, inviting those seeking salvation by immersing their souls in cathartic rock media masquerading as social profundity. But in the cold glare of reality, Jim doesn’t wash well as a role model for self-enlightenment. He considered himself a serious poet, but ultimately found himself a “rock star”, shouting verse lost in the aura of performance. In the end, Jim could not, himself, find the values of freedom and self-expression his performance stood for and it shows in his life.
Ultimately it was found that there were consequences to the message of Rock. A number of very talented people found out those consequences the hard way in the early 70s. Perhaps prior lessons learned from the existential philosophers, most of whom went mad or suffered violent deaths, should have been heeded. Forty years later, Jim, Janis and Jimi remain examples of the fate awaiting those who reach too far for answers unobtainable.
Russell Brand as Aldous Snow does a fascinating job of channeling the archetypical Rock star of the 60s, warts and all. He has a very surprising range that I didn’t expect from this film, given the hype on TV variety shows. He has unusual presence and you really can’t take your eyes off him. He’s worth seeing the otherwise predictable and clichéd film in the groove of “Hangover”.
It gets three of five well-worn leather trousers.