Saturday, November 19, 2005

DiG! - Spinal Tap for real

DiG! is a rockumentary shot by a chick called Ondi Timoner about two up-coming Indie rock bands - The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Since then, The Dandy Warhols have achieved a certain fame, not least in the UK when Channel 4 TV used their song "Bohemian Like You" as the sound-track for all their advertisments. By contrast, The Brian Jonestown Massacre have slipped back into obscurity and the festival circuit thanks to a combination of over-weening ambition and a raging narcotics habit. Naturally, the BJM feel a bit hard done-by as they are arguably better band and came up with the whole "let's conquer the industry" project in the first place.

DiG! is a great movie for anyone interested in how art meets industry. In a moment of lucidity one of the band members notes that "The record company says they are about fashioning a career and not about hits, but if you don't have a hit, they don't give a f*ck about your career." But I think that DiG! will appeal to a wider audience that just wants to laugh at the egotistical excesses of others. There is a lot of hysterical footage where each band stakes its claim to God-like status, and a whole bunch of beating each other up on stage, RAMONES-stylee. For myself, as a greedy capitalist bastard, there is nothing funnier than seeing a bunch of peace-lovin', sitar-playin', kaftan-wearin' hippies get violent with each other. "You broke my f*ckin' sitar man!" Pure comedy gold. There is also something delicious in seeing a man who thinks he is "starting a revolution" against "corporate America" bitching about how someone stole from him and how that is "like, completely against the law, man". Plus, you get the added bonus of seeing how ridiculous a lot of the record company A&R people are. One chick says "The Brian Jonestown Massacre are so retro. And so future" without absolutely no sense of irony.

Aside from that, cineastes have a good opportunity to see a lot of new shooting techniques in practice. The long-span of filming means that it incorporates footage on every type of new camera. Ondi shot 100 hours of black and white footage on tiny surveillance Hi-8 cameras and 800 hours of footage on digital video using Super-8, then Super-16 then Super-35 cameras. No wonder the movie took 4 years to edit down to just 2 hours of hard-hitting rock journalism.

DiG! deservedly won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004, beating off competition from Murgon Spurlock's McDonald's expose, SUPER SIZE ME. DiG! was released in theatres in the US in Winter 2004 and in Europe in Summer 2005. It is now available on DVD and is well worth a look.

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