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Bringing Jim Morrison back to life in the long-lost “HWY.”

Bringing Jim Morrison back to life in the long-lost “HWY.” (photo)

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One of the most immediately striking things about “When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors,” the feature-length doc about the L.A. band hitting theaters this week, is the film’s use of “HWY: An American Pastoral,” an experimental film shot by Jim Morrison in 1969 that up until now has only been available in blurry bootleg copies (like the one that currently exists on Google Video).

While there’s a hallucinatory haziness inherent to a deteriorating VHS copy of a copy, it’s the pristine footage of Morrison that director Tom DiCillo dug up from the film’s original 35mm negative that proves to be truly surreal. (So much so that when the film premiered at Sundance in 2008, potential distributors complained that the film featured reenactments of the iconic singer, which is understandable not only because of the quality of the footage, but also when you see scenes with Morrison driving down a lonely highway as a radio announcer reports that the singer has died.)

“There’s no way in hell we could’ve recreated that,” says DiCillo, who sifted through hours and hours of uncategorized footage when he came across Morrison’s “HWY.” “It wasn’t until I was deeply into it I realized that this came from ‘HWY’ and I’m actually glad I didn’t know that because it might’ve made me a little resistant to somehow pilfer his film. But once I had the idea, I was kind of locked onto it, which was wow, this is like the spirit of Morrison wandering through the film.”

04072010_JimMorrisonHWY2.jpgIndeed, “HWY” serves as the narrative backbone of “When You’re Strange,” which consists strictly of archival footage of the band and narration from Johnny Depp, charting The Doors’ six-year run from 1965 to Morrison’s death in 1971. The fact that the film looks as good as it does, thanks to the well-honed preservation efforts of the band, is a reminder that the initial seed of The Doors was planted when Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek first met at UCLA Film School. (Depp devilishly informs us during the film that Morrison’s lone student film earned him a D.)

“People have actually suggested to me that you should’ve distressed [the footage],” DiCillo says now. “‘You should’ve made it dirty and cracked and all this.’ No, I don’t agree with that. I think it should look as good as it was when [Morrison] shot it.”

The result is as arresting as Robby Krieger’s meandering guitar licks at the beginning of “The End,” heightening the legend while leaving the impression there’s still much more to be discovered.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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