Dig! (tbc)

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Ondi Timoner

The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/10/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Impressively made, riveting documentary that’s both funny and heart-breaking in equal measure.

Dig!, which deservedly won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance this year, started life in 1996, as a film that was intended to be about the conflict between art and commerce, initially focusing on several different bands.

Close Friendship And Bitter Rivalry

However, director Ondi Timoner soon narrowed it down to two, after becoming understandably fascinated by the friendship and rivalry between musicians Anton Newcome and Courtney Taylor (who narrates the film) and their respective bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. The resulting film is the product of seven years of astoundingly intimate access to her subjects and is culled from over 1500 hours of footage.

The film concentrates primarily on the figure of Anton Newcome, the charismatic leader of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who is intent upon staging a revolution in the music industry. Initially, Newcome bonds with Courtney Taylor, the leader of The Dandy Warhols, as the two men share a mutual respect and admiration as well as a similar taste in music and a shared view of the evils of the music industry.

However, when The Dandy Warhols hit the big-time (largely thanks to the Vodafone ad that used Bohemian Like You), Newcome and his band are left behind and their friendship turns to bitter rivalry.

The film makes a strong case for presenting Newcome as a sort of unsung song-writing genius in the John Lennon mould. Certainly, it’s impossible to argue with his dedication or his creative output, as the band release 11 albums independently over the course of a decade, with three of them being recorded in one year.

However, it also presents him as an unbelievably arrogant, self-destructive, ego-maniacal monster – every time the Massacre come close to a record deal, Newcome somehow screws it up, whether by insulting The Suits (several of whom appear as interviewees) or, more entertainingly, by punching out fellow band members on stage.

Genius And Obsession

Frankly, The Dandy Warhols are far less interesting (apart from their Naked Gig, which we see an all-too brief glimpse of, that goes uncommented on), but their continued success provides a dramatic contrast with the Massacre, who are constantly beset with fights, personality disorders, drug busts (the Warhols get busted too but are let off with a warning) and Newcome’s own addiction to heroin.

The footage is nothing short of astonishing and it’s hard to escape the impression that Timoner and her various camerapeople (including her brother David) must have followed the bands every day for seven years. The on-stage fight scenes alone are both hilariously funny and deeply sad – it’s as if Spinal Tap never existed. Courtney Taylor’s narration is remarkably balanced under the circumstances and it also helps that some of the band members have a neat line in witty to-camera repartee.

In short, Dig! is a thoroughly enjoyable, fascinating film about genius and obsession. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll look in vain for Brian Jonestown Massacre CDs in HMV afterwards. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Dig! (tbc)
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Content updated: 19/09/2018 15:49

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