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Italian fabulist Italo Calvino observed that there are two kinds of artists--those who are prolific and successful, and the tortured geniuses, each gazing at the other in deep jealousy and admiration. The two rock bands chronicled in the documentary DiG! fall easily into this equation. On the side of the tortured geniuses is the Brian Jonestown Massacre, led by the psychedelic and volatile Anton Newcombe. Portland's the Dandy Warhols, fronted by Courtney Taylor, fulfill the role of the artists who, while unable to plumb the artistic depths of their friendly rivals, achieve a fair degree of popular acclaim (in Europe, anyway). Shot over seven years and containing some astonishingly intimate footage, the film represents a labor of love for director Ondi Timoner, who befriended, lived, and traveled with the bands. DiG! will likely be most remembered for a remarkable scene of rock and roll implosion--a show in LA's Viper Room after which the Brian Jonestown Massacre were expected to ink a record deal. Instead, the band erupted in a fist fight onstage. Among themselves.
Does it go uphill or downhill from here? Depends on your definition of the terms. While dooming their careers, the Brian Jonestown Massacre manage to crank out an insane number of self-distributed albums--including three records in a single year. Courtney Taylor and the Dandies regard the musical output of their peers worshipfully and find themselves virtually ignored stateside but huge stars across the pond. While tens of thousands of fans in Germany and the UK sing along to every word at sold-out festivals headlined by the Dandies, Newscombe leads his crew in a nine-hour set in a dingy club for an audience of ten. Throughout the film there are controlled substances imbibed, clothing shed, sitars broken, punches thrown, arrests made. Taylor performs double duty as narrator of the film, begging the question of whether to accept his assertion that he fronts "the most well-adjusted band in America" at face value. The destined-for-greater-things Joel Gion, BJM's tambourine player, is the thief of every scene in which he appears, playing Flavor Flav to Newscombe's Chuck D. For those who want even more immersion, the DVD includes the option to "zoom," or expand, various scenes--a very cool feature. Those responsible for the hilarious excesses of DiG! have made a movie worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as This Is Spinal Tap, as mixed an honor as that might be.
The second of this set's two discs is practically its own sequel. Director Ondi Timoner had 1500 hours of footage to work with, so there was plenty of good material left on the cutting-room floor that found its way onto this supplemental disc. The deleted scenes include an unintentionally haunting pre-9/11 interview on a New York rooftop with BJM's Anton Newcombe; the twin towers loom behind the singer as he attempts to justify singing about love yet engaging in violence, drawing tenuous parallels between himself and militant prophets throughout history. This, and Newcombe's delight in listening to Charles Manson's musical recordings, is about as heavy as it gets, though. Other extras include various videos by the bands, with the conspicuous absence of the Dandy Warhol's David LaChapelle-directed "Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth." (The omission is understandable in light of the Dandies' sour grapes over the $400,000 video.) The Where Are They Now features find various members of the bands a little older and reflective, with new families and new gigs, reminiscing fondly on the seven years spent under Timoner's watchful spycam. As is the case with the film proper, the mood picks up whenever Joel Gion appears. When is this guy going to get his own talk show? For fans of Timoner's commentary on disc 1 there is--get this--footage of the director and her partners recording that commentary. Why there's no footage of Timoner watching and commenting on the footage of herself recording the commentary is anyone's guess. --Ryan Boudinot
Dig These Discs by the Brian Jonestown Massacre
Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective
Strung Out in Heaven
Bravery Repetition & Noise
And This Is Our Music
Thank God for Mental Illness
Bringing It All Back Home Again
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Dig These Discs by the Dandy Warhols
Welcome to the Monkey House
Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
The Dandy Warhols Come Down
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Top Customer Reviews
Seven-some years in the making, it's director Ondi Timoner's crazy love letter to two men -- Anton Newcombe, leader of The Brian Jonestown Massacre; and Courtney Taylor, head of the Dandy Warhols. Both groups ignited like Apollo 11's on the launch pad of the 1990s music scene but slowly sputtered back down to the ground just as spectacularly.
Newcombe seems like a musical genius who can't resist imploding at the worst possible times and places, while Taylor has the drive and accessibility to succeed without the crucial spark of crazed brilliance. Their friendship/rivalry takes a lot of turns during the course of this film, which was mostly recorded on handheld cameras as the events unfolded.
Everything that's right and wrong with the music industry is here: the inescapable mechanics of the game; the perils of drugs, egomania, overambition, pride and possession of mass quantities of obnoxiousness. Anybody who thinks they might want to make music for money should see this film first.
Plus, there's a lot of great, entertaining footage here: Newcombe's ill-advised handling of a Georgia roadcheck; a run-in with David LaChappelle; and especially the BJM's disastrous, Andy Kaufman-esque meltdown in front of record execs at the Viper Room (you gotta love any fight scene that ends with "motherf----r broke my sitar, man!").
The movie's only significant weakness the fact that Taylor voices the film narration. Yes, he was there and can comment on the events unfolding with a distinct air of authority, but his reading also gives the lines an unignorable bias.Read more ›
"Dig!" provides insight to the indie rock scene of the Pacific Northwest. After all, they were contemporaries with a little Seattle group called Nirvana. As Newcombe notes, the BJM paved the way for the White Stripes being played on pop radio. The Dandy Warhols have their own special studio in Portland, and recently their frontman, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, played guitar on the title track for Pink Martini's Splendor in the Grass. Newcombe has gone solo... and in a tragic footnote, due to his history of violence, he's not allowed to see his own son.
"Dig!" is a bittersweet symphony.
As a portrait of an angry, talented young man (Newcombe), DiG! is a success. People in the music industry regard Newcombe as a savant, even though he does everything he can to sabotage his career - fist fights with band mates, arrests for drugs, etc. DiG! offers viewers some insight into the possible roots of Newcombe's problems when discussing his childhood. Though it is sometimes difficult to watch Newcombe destroy himself, it is always interesting.
The material about the Dandy Warhols is middling. The group achieves more success than does the Brian Jonestown Massacre, but their story is just not as interesting. Anton is the main draw.
In short, DiG! is a good documentary that any fan of rock music will enjoy.
DVD 1 (120 min.) brings the original film (107 min.), tracing the origins of both bands, and their respective band leaders/singer-song-writers, Aton Newcombe for BMJ and Courtney Taylor for the Warholes. The movie was filmed over a 7 year period (1996-2003) and showcases the struggles of both bands to make it 'big'. The main focus of the film is on Anton Newcombe, a brilliant musician, but a very troubled human being (and I'm being kind). Clearly having the talent to make it big, Anton simply self-implodes time and again. Whether this is by choice or not is probably a medical issue, frankly. Watch the LA Viper Room scene, when they all know there are a number of record executives in the room, wanting to sign the band, and the gig ends up incredibly in an all-out fight among the band members on stage. Unbelievable, but real. The movie comes with a number of "linkouts" (about 15 min. in total) that lead you to additional scenes (such as when the Dandy Warholes' drummer leaves the band, which then gives a interview with the guy after the facts, reflecting on it).
DVD 2 ( 65 min.) brings deleted scenes, videos from the Dandy Warholes, and several live clips from BJM, as well as a jam session between Anton and Courtney. But most interesting for me was the "Where Are They Now" sequence, as well as an extended interview with the film's director.
I had never seen Brian Jonestown Massacre live until last year at the Monolith Music Festival (at the Red Rocks near Denver) and their 60 min.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really good inside look at the dynamic between the two bands and the inner turmoil that caused so many problems!!Published 4 months ago by Flower
I did not learn of the Dandys until streamed Veronica Mars years after it left TV and I got hooked on the theme song. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Danny Williams
you don't need to know or like either band for this to be entertaining.Published 6 months ago by P Steven Ferrari
Entertaining and funny.
If you like the bands you will like the movie.
Arms are for hugging The Dandy Warhols. And Brian Jonestown Massacre.Published 11 months ago by Jillybean
Easily one of my favorite documentaries of all time. I was only a slight BJM / Dandy fan before watching this but I was left intrigued. Read morePublished 13 months ago by M. Barnes