Rock documentaries are a dangerous thing. While some, such as the Rolling Stones/Altamont film “Gimme Shelter,” can shine and end up nearly flawlessly encapsulating a time, a place and a band, others can end up style-over-substance tripe meant only to trump the triumphs of the subject.
So when Ondi Timoner released “DiG!”, her chronicle of the love/hate relationship between The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, it had a high potential to fall flat.
But instead, it wildly succeeds, displaying the pitfalls of fame and semi-fame. It shows rock musicians at their best and worst and shows the line between a genius at work and someone who thinks they’re a god, often being the same person in question.
While The Dandy Warhols were posed for a meteoric rise in the music industry, BJM lead singer Anton Newcombe sabotaged every opportunity his band ever had, often just with cries of “I’m not for sale.”
While this spirit is admirable, Newcombe also seems completely convinced of his own genius and of the complete stupidity of others. He descends into a world of heroin abuse and band-infighting, all while creating an intimidating back catalog that even Dandy Warhols lead singer Courtney Taylor admits is one step ahead of him.
And though at first the band members were friends, jealousy and mental illness reared their ugly heads, causing eccentric behavior on Newcombe’s part that eventually led to some members of the Warhols going as far as to take out a restraining order against him.
While some could argue that the documentary shows specifically the instability on the part of Newcombe, the lens of Timoner’s camera also captures the Warhols’ members as egos rise and their indie roots are all but lost in the major-label world of glitz and money.
Also captured on-screen are incidences of drug-use by members of both bands, along with enough public freak-outs on Newcombe’s part to make Courtney Love blush.
In the realm of great rock documentaries, “DiG!” more than succeeds, presenting both sides to the story of the continuing relationship between two bands that started out with the same roots, but veered in different directions, sacrificing their friendship in the process.