Dig! (15)



Documentary (2003)
107mins US

Director: Ondi Timoner
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

In 1996, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, approached his friend, Courtney Taylor, frontman of The Dandy Warhols, to join him in a musical revolution, putting creativity and originality ahead of profits. Ondi Timoner's eye-opening documentary, narrated by Taylor, contrasts the self-destruction of the Brain Jonestown Massacre with the rise of The Dandy Warhols, who manage to navigate the corporate sea without selling out for the sake of a quick buck.

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LondonNet Film Review

The Questionable Messiah of Rock & Roll
In the pretentious musical showdown to end all others, Dig shovels out the dirt of artistic genius, fame, and multiple intoxicants.

Placing the iconic nutter Anton Newcombe, of Brian Jonestown Massacre, as the crease in the fold between artistry and sheer madness, Dig follows BMJ and their spawn/rival Courtney Taylor, of The Dandy Warhols, through seven-odd years of folly, disappointment, drugs and large hotel rooms, where each bands' musical revolution turns at odds with collective fortune and success.

In his fuzzy chops and big moon glasses, the film depicts Newcombe traipsing through southern California like Christ on a musical rampage. Not only guitars, but sitars, plunky pianos, Djembes and kiddie xylophones hacked at with drum sticks, even Newcombe's fumbling band mates - all succumb to his fanatical genius, often bowing to misuse as hungry dogs to bad food.

A chance meeting at a late night show draws Taylor into the mix, and a bond of mutual admiration and aspirations for a rock revolution meshes the two bands together. A dissimilar amount of drug use and so-called 'adjustment', however, splits their paths, and somehow a friendship turns into a friendly feud, turns into an outright battle of the bands.

The film immediately sides to the less-crazy Dandy Warhols, likely a result of access and reliability for Producer Ondi Timoner: when the Warhols were lounged in the back of a posh bus for their European tour, the Brian Jamestown Massacre was skulking about their LA home, battling heroine and sleeping on stale carpet. Evolution eventually flags the Warhols in the robes of glorified European stardom, though their US fan base remains only small crowds of the pretentious, while their former-friends-turned-insane BJM fall off the rock-n-roll wagon. Thus, Timoner shoves Taylor into the place of Newcombe as Musical Revolutionist, and tucks Newcombe back into his little hole of madness.

Most striking in this film are the drastic economic comparisons made surrounding each band's 'success': while the record-selling Dandy Warhols exist because of happy suburban homes, BJM originated from rough kids with broken homes - Newcombe being the trite result of divorce, alcoholism and mental illness. In one course narrative, Taylor, after falling out with BJM and during his mock-hawk stage, shrugs off his relationship with Newcombe as hanging out with kids from the ghetto, kids who, to Taylor, would eventually end up in jail.

Despite the crude shroud of Timoner's own judgements, however, the film is ultimately a striking portrayal of two bands clawing for the top and desperate for everything in between -- and you can't forget the self-serving (yet altogether rock-worthy) soundtrack.

Megan M. Retka


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Rest of UK and Irish Cinemas

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To Thursday 16th November

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From Friday 17th November
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