There's no denying it: Rock Stars make great actors. Jon Bon Jovi aside, how else can you explain the immediate hook and appeal of DIG!, the deserved winner of the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize? DIG! Is a behind the scenes style documentary that follows the launching careers of two rock bands, the Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, over a period of seven years.
These seven years will ultimately mark the trajectory of one rock band on their way to pop stardom and corporate success and the track of another rock band on their way towards total meltdown and self annihilation.
Though DIG! Is largely an examination of the fine line between selling albums and selling out, the movement of this story is most driven by the spectacular train wreck that is The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Equal parts explosive personalities and genius, these are the rock stars that you've been warned about. They're also the group that you would most want to hang out with- only you'd probably want to put plastic down first, because it would certainly get messy. After hiding their lead singer/songwriter for just long enough to get signed, the BJM actually manages to teach the harsh lessons of the music business to a record producer, rather than the more standard vice versa. Filmed through a series of amazing musical moments and pretty impressive fistfights, the arc of the band's career does much to prove that talent will only get you about half way there.
The perfect foil for the BJM proves to be a rival band, and their sometime friends, the Dandy Warhols. Touting his band as "the most well adjusted band in America," Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor nevertheless looks to the BJM for his inspiration even as the Warhols gain fame and recognition well in excess of their early contemporaries. The Warhols find success because they take themselves there- they work hard, accept responsibility, and fulfill obligations.
The true extent of the Warhols/Jonestown rivalry may be overstated in the film, but it is best said of the respective frontmen that each has what the other wants: credibility vs. success.
As each band member changes over the seven year period, so too does the filmmaker. Some of the early footage is shot with excessive use of low angle "hero shots," which give an up the nose view that many young directors find impressive. The concert footage, however, is uniformly excellent, and director/producer Ondi Timoner quickly gains style and experience, resulting in a final edit that is at once polished and visually exciting. The narration is voiced by the Dandy Warhols' Courtney Taylor, and there is a ton of extra footage, including music videos and live shows, three separate audio commentaries, a "Where are they now?" update, and additional bonus footage. Even the biggest DVD dorks should be satisfied.
If you are at all interested in rock music or movies, you should pick up this DVD immediately. An absolute must have for anyone starting a band.