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3 reviews, 13 user ratings

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DiG! (2004)
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by Lybarger

"About the best sounding traffic accident I've ever seen..."
4 stars

After seeing this new documentary from director Ondi Timoner, I immediately went out and snagged a CD by The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The bandís brand of rock and roll is creative and mesmerizing, and I also have to admit that I would be hesitant to meet their vocalist and chief songwriter Anton Newcombe.

As depicted in Dig!, Newcombe demonstrates some terrific musical instincts that almost measure up to his titanic ego. If you wonder why youíve never heard of Newcombe or the Brian Jonestown Massacre, thereís an easy explanation.

In the bandís decade of existence, they've found it increasingly difficult to complete a set without:
*Fighting with the audience (in one shot, we see Newcombe literally kicking a disgruntled barfly in the face)
*Arguing with each other in mid-song and then storming off stage in protest (some band members quit permanently after these spats)

Needless to say, record company executives who love their tunes are afraid to sign them because their volatility. Dig! is probably the first music documentary that makes viewers feel sorry for some of the suits.

The film documents how when The Brian Jonestown Massacre did get a decent record deal from a prominent indie label, Newcombe managed to squander company money and almost didnít finish the album. It makes Newcombeís rants about artistic purity ring hollow.

While Newcombe merely talks of starting a revolution, another band forming at the same time in Portland, Oregon is gradually working their way toward success in Europe. The Dandy Warhols make music thatís a little too far out for a U.S. music market dominated by talentless forgettable boy bands like NíSync.

Their mastermind Courtney Taylor (who narrates Dig!) frequently jams and parties with the Massacre and has a love-hate relationship with Newcombe. The Dandy Warhols do many of the same drugs and have some personal shifts and problems with the business side, but they seem more cohesive and adaptable.

They also achieve some commercial success that the Brian Jonestown Massacre can only dream about.

This leads to some petty jealousy and sniping that only leads Newcombe and his crew into further obscurity. The singerís antics are compelling to watch in much the same way that 15-car traffic accident is.

Whenever heís in danger of reaching an audience, making progress in his career or cleaning up his act, Newcombe manages to spectacularly rescue despair from the jaws of hope. You can never quite tell how he will alienate others.

Somehow, Timoner just happened to be there when a fight in a club ruined his chance of being signed to a major label, when his band were pulled over for a drug bust that ended their first national tour and when he got arrested for assault with a deadly weapon on his first performance after getting off of heroin.

In many ways, the Brian Jonesotwn Massacre and the Dandy Warhols may now be the best documented rock bands in history because Timoner leaves no mystery to why one group eventually prospers and the other goes through nearly 40 different people in a ten-year period and playing to crowds smaller than the band itself.

Time and time again, Timoner demonstrates her astonishing gift for getting the musicians to open up to her. Both bands freely do drugs right on camera. And Timoner does an interesting trick with the sound, where sheíll capture a single musician perform his or her part in a song and then gradually turn up the entire mix. It makes you appreciate the work that goes into each part of the recording process.

If you want to know why anyone would still be concerned with Newcombe, visit, so you can legally download their unique music. As the documentary points out, Newcombe may difficult to get along with, but his tunes indicate he has a lot to offer and that he should be remembered.

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originally posted: 12/14/04 16:30:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/28/06 bee I am totally&absolutely in love with joel gion-seenBJM live amazing stuff,joels an iconbaby 5 stars
11/11/05 zeitgeist Terrible bands, great documentary. There's something to be said for that. 4 stars
10/27/05 Psychedelic man Brilliant piece and fucked up crazy 5 stars
11/11/04 Tripp Southern Excellent movie. 5 stars
10/16/04 Tarte Loved It!! 5 stars
10/05/04 soleil eve Blast! These guys are a trip! 5 stars
10/03/04 armando rodriguez it's real. it's hysterical! 5 stars
7/09/04 Masacre Fan The greates music doc. since The Song Remains The Same! 5 stars
6/23/04 Candy Machine stroke of (mad) genius 5 stars
4/26/04 Jessica Pratt I'm madly in love with Joel Gion! 5 stars
4/26/04 stenobabe intriguing, sad 4 stars
4/05/04 John A. Nesbit One of the better docs from Sundance 2004 4 stars
3/29/04 Megan Casey Awesome... great music. 5 stars
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  01-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 12-Apr-2005



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