Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ondi Timoner
Like last year’s superb music docos Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster and The End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones, Dig! is a fascinating portrait of the creative pressures and internal tensions that can shape a band’s future. Filmed over seven years and culled from some 1500 hours of footage, Dig! is a wonderful warts and all exploration of the contrasting fortunes of two rival bands.
Both talented musicians and creative songwriters in their own rights, Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor were two friends who dreamed of changing the face of music. Newcombe formed the Brian Jonestown Massacre while Taylor formed his band The Dandy Warhols. The two were rivals of a sort, but they slowly became darlings of the underground independent music scene of America’s west coast. Their live performances attracted attention from record companies, but it was when commercial success beckoned that the bands followed vastly different paths.
While the Dandy Warhols come to reluctantly embrace their commercial success and international fame, the Brian Jonestown Massacre seem to implode at every opportunity to break through, thanks to the explosive temper and self-destructive tendencies of their volatile frontman. Newcombe is depicted as a driven, almost neurotic genius who often attacked his own band members on stage and undermined any success the band may have enjoyed from the music industry. As the film points out, people would go to a BJM gig just to see what the fiery and unpredictable Newcombe would do next.
Veteran music video director Ondi Timoner gained unprecedented access to the two bands to film this project. But what started out as something of a vanity piece became a poisonous love letter to artistic vanity and the high price of artistic integrity. As with the two aforementioned rock documentaries, one does not need to be a fan of the bands or their music to enjoy this fascinating and revelatory film.