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flick pick | DiG! 2004
Directed by: Ondi Timoner
Starring: Anton Newcombe, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Joel Gion, Matt Hollywood, Peter Holmstrom, Zia McCabe
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: documentary, music
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:  true?!?
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Once upon a time -- back in the mid 90s, to be more precise -- Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre met Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols. The two charismatic frontmen discovered a shared passion for the sort of 60s-inspired rock that would come to define the indie music scene of the era (and a mutual love of drugs as well, cynics might point out). They soon became each other's biggest fans. At the time, BJM had already begun to establish itself as a critics' darling; the Dandys were just starting to get noticed. Newcombe was generally considered a brilliant musician, not least of all in his own megalomaniacal mind; secure in the knowledge of his own musical superiority (Taylor too acknowledges this to be the case), he eagerly took Taylor and the Dandys under his wing. In the years that followed, however, it was the Dandys that would go on to achieve (modest) success -- getting the major record contract, playing huge shows, shooting big-budget videos, while putting out a couple of albums that garnered critical accolades as well. BJM, meanwhile, suffered from heroin addiction, big egos, constant in-fighting and an almost preternatural talent for sabotaging every opportunity thrown their way. Despite the intra-band tensions and Newcombe's many personal demons, however, BJM continued to put out a staggering number of albums on a shoestring budget, operating in true indie style. As the Dandys moved into the mainstream and BJM kept on doing the same old same old, tensions arose, with the friendship turning into a bitter rivalry that would come to symbolize the clash between corporate rock and the underground music scene -- between the need to make money and a genuine love for the music, and how to reconcile the two.

Review My biggest memory of the Brian Jonestown Massacre was not the show I caught a few years back (so-so, quite honestly, though I do like their music), but the time I didn't get to see them. I sat in the lobby of Tucson's Hotel Congress for three and a half hours while the boy, a big BJM fan, refused to head home despite the fact that though the folks at the club were in a tizzy trying to figure out what the heck had happened to the people that were supposed to be on stage, the band in question was obviously not planning to show up. Ever. This sort of erratic behavior, I would discover while watching DiG!, was apparently par for the course when dealing with Anton Newcombe. Indeed, Newcombe's over-the-top persona is a big part of why DiG! makes for such an entertaining and fascinating watch, even if you don't give a hoot about either BJM or the Dandy Warhols' music. Yes, there's a fair amount of waxing about Newcombe's supposed musical genius that non-fans might find slightly irritating, but on the whole, Timoner doesn't present her film as a great big love song to either band, the way that music documentaries have a tendency to do. (Indeed the Dandys sometimes come off as a bunch of suburban poseurs faking the urban bohemian rock-n-roll lifestyle, despite the fact that the film is narrated by Taylor himself.) As a documentary about the history of either band, real fans might even find the movie falls flat; we don't get that much on their individual back-stories. But DiG! offers something with broader appeal: an intriguing and often rather amusing look at the eternal conflict between art and business -- about whether it's possible to stay true to the music and still gain the commercial success to get your albums heard. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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