DiG!September 16, 2005
Keywords: dig music documentary film
If there is one (music) documentary you should see this year, it is 'DiG!'. It was recorded during a period of 7 years while following two indie rock bands struggling for recognition and fame.
You may have heard of the Dandy Warhols but I suspect that you have not heard of Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM). The two bands started out as friends in the mid 90's but the friendship deteriorated. You get to experience the drama like a fly on the wall, watching it all unravel.
Anton Newcombe is the leader of BJM and his ego is larger than life. There is a fine line between 'musical genious' and village idiot and Anton Newcombe seems to be walking it elegantly; for a while.
On one hand he shows signs of unrivalled talent and creativity. He plays over 40 instruments and is able to produce a quality record alone, in his own basement and just in one week.
On the other hand Anton shows signs of madness when he time after time creates havoc. Be it by kicking the audience in the head, firing all band members, showing up drunk for important meetings or succumbing to heroin addiction. It's almost as if wants to sabotage any given opportunity to avoid success which he probably regards as cliché.
This of course creates great frustration among his band members that are trying really hard to "make it". BJM's official site tells some of the story: "Over the years, 60 members have passed through the band...". Anton Newcombe remains like a musical despot.
The main singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor from the Dandy Warhols is the narrator of the documentary but the band has only a secondary part in the documentary. The fact that they "make it" by securing a lucrative record deal is like a slap in the face of Anton Newcombe.
Captivating band rivalry ensues. The Dandy Warhols write a song (Not if you were the last junkie on earth) that mocks BJMs and it becomes a hit. Anton Newcombe strikes back by writing a whole album that mocks the Dandy Warhols. Courtney agrees to join the band during a gig but things go bad (they always do at BJMs gigs) and he stands aside to laugh at them.
I could go on but the less you know about this movie and the bands it portrais the better.
The director Ondi Timoner does an amazing job of introducing you to them and quickly gripping your attention... not letting it go until the closing credits are rolling across the screen (accompanied by some great music).