**/**** Image A- Sound A Extras C+
starring Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kevin Dillon, Kathleen Quinlan
written by J. Randal Johnson and Oliver Stone
directed by Oliver Stone
by Bryant Frazer Oliver Stone's lofty take on California psychedelic rock band The Doors begins near the end, with a thickly bearded Jim Morrison--Val Kilmer, delivering a well-practiced but largely soulless imitation of the '60s cultural icon--slouched in a dark Los Angeles studio recording lines of spoken-word poetry. "Did you have a good world when you died?" he demands. "Enough to base a movie on?" The setting is December, 1970, a few months before Morrison voluntarily exiled himself in France--perhaps to dodge a potential prison sentence after his arrest for lewdness on stage--and a little more than six months before his death in Paris. Stone fills all of that in later, but he starts here, not just because the poem Morrison is reading, "The Movie," is too apropos for a filmmaker as literal-minded as Stone to resist, but also because Morrison's demonstrated preoccupation with death and storytelling dovetails so nicely with the film's manifestation of same. Stone includes a formative event from Morrison's early life: His family is driving through the desert when they pass the aftermath of a car accident where an elderly Navajo man is bleeding to death at the side of the road. Young Jim, rubbernecking, locks eyes for an instant with the Native American and, just like that, picks up a fellow traveller. Stone digs the idea. Throughout the film, he has Morrison seeing Native spirits at key moments, dancing at Doors performances, or lurking in the corners of parties. He also gives Morrison a stalker: a mysterious man (an uncredited Richard Rutowski, who later collaborated on the screenplay for Stone's Natural Born Killers), well-built and sometimes nude, who represents death and occasionally materializes at the periphery of the action, not unlike the reaper from Bergman's The Seventh Seal.