Rock 'n' Roil 

Music documentary DiG! fails to make its point, but remains a compelling watch

Music documentary DiG! fails to make its point, but remains a compelling watch

Ondi Timoner's vivid rock doc DiG! stumbles through an ill-argued point about the ironies of pop stardom in the post-alternative age, but whatever it lacks in depth, it makes up for in footage. Timoner set out to make a film about the neo-psychedelic music scene in the mid-'90s, zeroing in on two bands: the erratic, inspired Brian Jonestown Massacre and the poppier, more ambitious Dandy Warhols. She recorded countless live performances and A&R meetings, and ended up with a striking contrast between the Dandys' aloof, pretty-boy frontman Courtney Taylor and Brian Jonestown's messianic, disagreeable Anton Newcombe—the latter of whom is seen kicking people out of his band in the middle of an industry showcase performance.

But until the end of the film, when Timoner rips out a stunning and incisive flashback montage, the director stays out of the way of her subjects, to DiG!'s detriment. It's one thing to hear Taylor and Newcombe (not to mention their bandmates and managers) talk about how great their music is, but it would be nice to hear that backed up by critics and pop historians. Some outside voices might especially clarify why Brian Jonestown Massacre had such a rabid cult following, when in DiG! they come off sounding like a less reliable, more droney version of the Dandy Warhols, who themselves are sort of melodically challenged.

The movie is so muddled that it's impossible to tell whether Newcombe and Taylor were really as friendly as DiG! would have it. Still, it's consistently entertaining to watch Newcombe flip out in the middle of performances (something that, according to the band's Web site, he didn't do as often as Timoner implies). And as a snapshot of a low-rent band's lifestyle, the movie makes a useful companion to Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. In the latter film, grizzled rockers take two years to make an album and hand out million-dollar bonuses to their new bass player, while in DiG! scuzzy youngsters knock out entire records in an afternoon and punch each other in the head later that night.

—Noel Murray

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