Anton was the real tortured genius: he was terribly prolific, he played countless instruments ("he fuckin' broke my fuckin' sitar!"), each of his songs was breathtaking and unlike anything else...and he was so screwed up mentally and physically that commercial failure was almost an inevitability. It would have said something amazing about the music industry if he had been able to succeed.
Haruki Murakami wrote, "People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues...So an inevitably irony results."
In fact, Dig! is so bursting with irony that it reaches at times the point of painful obviousness—Timoner's one failing, I think, was that the film should never have been obvious.
The greatest irony, of course, was that Anton—the more talented, the more visionary, the more idealistic—was bound for failure, while he simultaneously inspired the relative success of his close friend and sometimes-rival, Courtney. Courtney lacked perhaps the wild genius of Anton, but he could get through a show without kicking in the head of an audience member, a tour without firing half the band, a recording session without heroin. And the only person who can’t see this irony is Anton himself: “I don’t do anything wrong,” he says. “That’s why I don’t say I’m sorry.”
Again and again throughout the film, Anton declares, “I am not selling myself!” as if he’s trying to convince himself of it. His talent persuades one manager and industry official after another to put themselves on the line so Anton can get a record contract, and time after time he wreaks destruction on his chances of success.
"He is his own worst enemy, because he thinks success and credibility are mutually exclusive," said one friend in the film.
And yet, after seeing the film I went online immediately to buy a CD by the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and I downloaded some music by the more-accessible and also terrific Dandy Warhols. Sings Courtney,
“In a way, I can’t
help but feel responsible:
I always knew that you were insane
with your pain.
But I never thought you’d be a junkie
because heroin is so passe.”