"It's a fictional documentary," Jim Morrison says in a clip from the lost 1968 Doors tour documentary A Feast Of Friends. "I can't say too much about it, because we're not really making it. It's just kind of making itself."
Forty-six years later, the restored and remastered film is finally being released in all of its free-form glory. Funded by the band and directed by Paul Ferrara, one of Morrison's film-school friends, A Feast of Friends doesn't stick to typical rock-doc territory, expanding to focus on interactions with fans, friends and bystanders. The climate of American politics and fashion, circa '68, is also captured along the way, as A Feast of Friends veers off the beaten path to tell its story.
That's in keeping, of course, with the unconventional career of the Doors, but could also explain why some film-goers were left confused during this movie's limited initial screenings. A Feast of Friends had been shown at a handful of festivals many years back, but never received much in the way of accolades and was, more or less, forgotten by all but the most diehard of Doors fans.
"The movie might not even be about us for all well know," Robbie Krieger said, while Morrison added that he hoped the film would leave their audience "puzzled." Mission accomplished. The results amount to more of an elaborate snapshot than a detailed portrait. Still, A Feast of Friends isn't all bad.
Without having to bother with typical documentary fare, it's able to present the band in much more open terrain. Even though the Doors obviously knew they were being filmed, there is a casual manner on display throughout. The live footage within is simply incredible, and the remastering of both audio and video is as good as it gets. The down side, however, is that a snapshot can only give you so much information.
Over the decades since this shoot, the legend of the Doors has risen far above the concrete reality of the band. A Feast of Friends serves as a down-to-earth reminder of just how revolutionary and radical this group was in its prime. The Doors were all about drama, both musically and visually—and that is certainly captured within this 40-minute feature, even if you're left wanting more of the concert performances and less of the interaction between band members and hangers on.
A DVD-extra featurette titled Feast Of Friends: Encore adds 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes outtakes, though they add little to the storyline for anyone other than the most dedicated. Also included is a 1968 British documentary called The Doors Are Open. Weaving politics, the Vietnam War and other social scenes in and out of performances from the Doors, it too is a cinema-verite Polaroid of the era, with the Doors' music as the perfect soundtrack. In contrast to Feast Of Friends, The Doors Are Open was shot in stark black and white.
An additional clip from a Canadian television special called The Rock Scene: Like It Is, however, is worth the price of the entire DVD.
Hosted by singer Noel Harrison, the program was filmed in the summer of 1967 and originally aired in October of that year. The band was young, hungry and full of edge, captivating the studio audience for the 12-minute journey with Morrison as ringleader. To think, only a couple years earlier, elders were flipping out about the Beatles' long hair. The Rock Scene, in contrast, confronts them with a lengthy, free-form, jazz-inspired, oedipal odyssey—and in beautiful full color.
There is also a brief interview segment to enjoy with Krieger, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and band manager Danny Sugarman.