Dig!, The Movie

dig-movie-posterDig! is an immensely watchable exploration into the insanity of rock ‘n’ roll. Following two bands–The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre–over seven years, Dig! captures their successes and failures in unflinching detail. The bands are friends and enemies–each enamored with and jealous of the other. In charting their disparate career trajectories, Dig! uncovers not only a cautionary tale about the music industry but about rock ‘n’ roll life itself.

The primary focus of the film is on Anton Newcombe, leader of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and his personal demons. Newcombe and his band screw up every break they get and it soon becomes clear that Newcombe will destroy any chance for their success. That Courtney Taylor (of the Dandy Warhols), who narrates the film, and others continually call Newcombe a “genius” only makes you wonder how dumb they all are.

The really fascinating thing about the film is that neither band is very good. The Brian Jonestown Massacre sound like a pastiche of every bad thing about the 60s–they have no beat, no magnetic, uplifting choruses, just mushy tones and hippy aesthetics. The Dandy Warhols are a personality-free group of hair-do’s who embody just about everything crappy about modern rock. (It’s a wonder they don’t have a platinum record.) The bands provide plenty of food for thought on the relationship between talent and ambition.

The more success Newcombe achieves, the more destructive he becomes. Likewise, the more success the Dandy Warhols achieve, the more insufferable they become. Dig! digs into the narcissistic culture of rock ‘n’ roll like no other film has done previously. The record companies actually come out looking sympathetic if for no other reason than they have to put up with these children.

In its dedication to these unfamous musicians, Dig! unmasks much of the mystique of rock ‘n’ roll. It gives us a personal tour of the lives of working musicians. We’ve become so inundated with stories of the glamorous life of rock musicians that it’s a welcome relief to see rock in all its filthy, immature, ego-battling ignominy. And it never hurts to see A&R guys saying idiotic things. Dig! should be required viewing for indie rockers on what not to do.