Director: Ondi Timoner

U.S.A.| 2004. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 107 min.

This well-assembled documentary from director Ondi Timoner follows two bands over seven years—from their early collaborative friendship into rivalry and jealousy. Dandy Warhols leader Courtney Taylor narrates the film and provides the perspective on his friendship with Anton Newcombe, founder of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Both men are fiercely talented, with a similar approach to retro indie-style rock. But their careers take opposite paths. Taylor and band (Zia McCabe, Peter Holstrom and Brent DeBoer) sign with a major label and struggle to maintain their integrity in an industry that values instant money-makers over true talent. Newcombe and his ever-changing line-up (Joel Gion, Matt Hollywood, Dean Taylor, Davies and Hayes) struggle with drug addictions and diva-like temper tantrums.
The film centres on the strong bond between two bands that obviously admire each other hugely but are mutually jealous—Taylor for Newcombe’s ferocious talent and Newcombe for Taylor’s massive success. Taylor sticks to his guns, remains home in Portland and finds a fan base where he least expects it; Newcombe continuously makes groundbreaking music but self-destructs in rootless squalor. It’s clear that both men (and the musicians around them) are extremely gifted, but it’s Taylor who finds the focus needed to stabilise his life, while Newcombe sinks into drug-fuelled Spinal Tap excess.
These goofy antics are hilariously entertaining, even as the film becomes increasingly sad and cautionary. The cameras literally spent seven years with these groups, and some 1,500 hours of film was shaped into a coherent and lively story that tells us as much about ourselves as it says about these two bands.

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