DiG! (USA)


directed by: Ondi Timoner
documentary
DiG!
 
Chris says: "This frenzied documentary is worthy of the hype lavished upon it. A chronicle of seven years in the lives of two bands (The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre) who start out as friends and end up taking wildly divergent paths. Deeper and much more fun than your average rockumentary, with BJM leader Anton Newcombe emerging as a fascinating portrait of a eccentric, mad, tragic genius. 4 cats"
 

Clinton says: "Rock and roll rivalries are as old as the music itself. Beatles vs Stones. Blur vs Oasis. Dylan vs Donovan. Mozart vs Salieri. But nothing is more muddled with a mixture of love, hate, genius, and tragedy as the parallel stories of best friends/worst enemies The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Dandy's frontman Courtney Taylor and Jonestown genius Anton Newcombe were great admirers of each other, and both out to revolutionize the music industry with their original reto-inspired sound. But as the career of the Dandy's began to take off thanks to catchy hits and major label support, the BJM struggled to make it out of the underground. Considered even by Taylor to be the better musician, Newcombe is a mad genius who's unpredictable mood swings constantly throws his band into chaos, keeps his friends unnerved, and ruins his chance of ever making it big. Like Syd Barret, he's a musical genius who's alternately delusional and inspired. He lives solely for the music - and fuck everything else. Director Ondi Timoner was an insider with both groups during the last six years, and has some stunning behind the scenes footage of both bands in action - living together, playing together, and taking the fast track to success and obscurity. With a visual style more exciting than any music video, the story unfolds, and we laugh, cringe, and watch in awe as genius unfolds. Before I was only vaguely aware of these bands, but afterwards I wanted to hear much more from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and maybe borrow my friend's Warhols CDs as well."

 
Diane says: "Yes, check out this rock docu! Great visual style in this story of the friendship and, later, rivalry of two bands. (See Chris' and Clinton's reviews for more.) Who will lend me one of their Brian Jonestown Massacre CDs? They played here in Boston last night, but I'd fear for my life if I attended one of their shows. 4 cats."
 
Michael says: "Between GIGANTIC: A TALE OF TWO JOHNS, and DIG!, I'm finding that rock & roll documentaries can provide pretty fertile ground for film. DIG! is the type of documentary where the filmmaker gets an idea to make a movie about two similar bands, who happen to be friends, are starting out around the same time, and have a bit of an industry buzz around them. The story that blossoms as their careers advance seems like a gift for movie-making purposes. Timoner really just has to be around to document the amazing exploits of both bands as The Dandy Warhols find success, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre crashes and burns. A thoroughly entertaining and well-told story. I recommend this one for everyone. 4 1/2 cats"
 
Bruce says: "DiG! is a great slice of Americana. Through a microscope we see what chasing the American Dream looks like up close and we also get a glimpse of what Joni Mitchell called the star-making machinery behind the popular song as director Ondi Timoner follows the paths of two promising bands of the nineties, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor are the bands’ respective leaders. The two are on-and-off-again friends displaying their admiration for one another and jealousy for each other’s talent and success.

"Although the film follows the bands for seven years (1996-2003) the film concentrates mostly on the first couple of years where we quickly get an idea of who will make it and who will fall by the wayside. Our judgments certainly are not based on musical assessment; their basis is behavioral. Both bands have initial word-of-mouth success and develop a following; both crave success; members of both have heavy drug habits. The difference, however, lies in the self destructive nature of Anton Newcombe versus the more focused efforts of Courtney Taylor. Taylor has better sense of how to stroke the star makers; Newcombe prefers to alienate everyone who could contribute to his success.

"Based on sheer talent, Newcombe appears to have the markings of genius. Genius in a vacuum unfortunately implodes. Newcombe's songs are raw and plentiful, but he desperately needs a solid band and good management behind him to generate the type of product that interests a major record label - and signing with a big label is what it's all about. At times it is painful to watch how hostile he can be, how eager he is to bite the hand that might feed him. Ultimately Brian Jonestown Massacre falls apart. There is a great clip where the band member beat each other up during a performance.

"Although The Dandy Warhols get a coveted recording contract with Capitol records, we see that the contract signing is only one small step on the road to success. Capitol has no idea which songs should become singles. The company foolishly spends 400K on a David LaChappelle video which has nothing to do with the song. It appears that marketing and promoting the group is an afterthought. The group finally tours England and Europe where they meet with huge success. Taylor succinctly lets us know that sales in the first two weeks in England were equal to US sales for an entire year. The Dandy Warhols have graced the soundtracks of GOOD WILL HUNTING, QUEER AS FOLK, IGBY GOES DOWN, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and SIX FEET UNDER.

"The film spends too much time analyzing the personal flaws of the performers and less on analyzing the pathetic state of the recording industry and how it got that way. We need to have a complete picture. Something’s not quite right when an entire industry can’t break even with 90% of its product. This point is made more than once during the film and it bears exploring. The recording industry does not know how to promote new talent. Power politics drive most decisions. Companies often spend millions in promoting has-beens with household names because executives are afraid to put themselves on the line. All this behind-the-scenes stuff has a major effect on both The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols although it is hard to imagine how any executive on earth could connect with Anton Newcombe much less save him from himself.

"What is not so great about DiG! is the quality of the archival footage which is often dark, out of focus, grainy and fuzzy. While there was a lot of hype about the ‘gang rivalry’ between the two groups, the actual events were hardly worth the effort of including them in the film. 3.5 cats"