thu 13/08/2020

Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee | reviews, news & interviews

Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee

Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee

Roadie to Nowhere: Shane Meadows Goes Mockumentary

The filmmakers have been careful to point out in interviews that Le Donk himself (real name: Nicholas) was cooked up many years ago by Paddy Considine, the actor who plays him, in collaboration with Meadows - in other words, long before Steve Coogan conceived a similar character for his BBC series Saxondale. Once you get past their petty-minded, down-at-heel heroes, film and series are easily distinguishable from one another: where Coogan cleaved to a traditional sitcom format, and revealed a tad too much fondness for his central character, Meadows and Considine go the hand-held, on-the-hoof route, and aren’t afraid to show Donk’s ugly – or rather, uglier – side.

The conceit is that Meadows has pitched up on Donk’s doorstep to shoot a documentary about him. As a radio mic is taped to his body (“I’m like Donnie Darko going in to infiltrate the Mafia”), Donk displays a keen awareness of the genre, and implores the director not to manipulate footage in the editing. “It happened to the Osbournes,” he whines. “It was just a load of fucking tantrums!” It turns out that he can make himself look like a berk without help from anyone else. He has a mild hissy fit when Meadows shows an interest in Scor-Zay-Zee (Dean Palinczuk), a rotund young rapper managed by Donk. When Donk calls in on an ex-girlfriend (Peep Show’s Olivia Colman), who is pregnant with his child but living with another man, he loses what little cool he has. (In a nice aside which might’ve been developed further, the director offers Donk advice on how to win her back.) On the way to roadie at an “Arctical Monkeys” gig, he threatens to dump the crew on the roadside when he discovers he’ll be sleeping in the van, rather than in a hotel, to preserve documentary authenticity.

Mockumentaries have fast become a cheap and easy way of sneaking unoriginal ideas through quality control. But Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee, though minor in ambition and length (71 minutes), has in its favour a performance by Considine that is as thorough in its own way as his previous work for Meadows (A Room for Romeo Brass, Dead Man’s Shoes). His soulful eyes gleam even in his most repugnant moments, while his jittery paranoia is never adequately concealed by a would-be laidback exterior. In short, it’s the same basic material traded in by The Office or I’m Alan Partridge – colossal self-delusion – but lent a boost by Considine’s actorly rigour. Donk’s eleventh-hour epiphany (“I’ve hung on the coat-tails of artistic people”) doesn’t really convince, but at least the final scene, and a bawdy exchange between Considine and the Arctic Monkeys that is hidden in the end credits, hint that such self-awareness will be but a passing phase.

Meadows displays his customary knack of putting his cast at ease, and his cameras in the right place, which has ensured that even inconsequential pieces like his last film, the crypto-corporate Somers Town, shimmer with warmth and honesty. That may be how he gets away with the daft climax here, as Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee land a place on the bottom of the bill at the Arctic Monkeys’ Old Trafford show. (The crowd’s bemused reaction is a picture.)

The film, which gets a DVD release a fortnight after it opens in cinemas, marks the first in a project called Five Day Features, originated by Meadows. Unlike the similarly frugal Dogme 95 movement, this has a single stipulation. (Can you guess what it is?) Larry Clark (Kids, Bully) has already signed up to do one, and Meadows has offered tips to other filmmakers who want to make a movie in less time than it takes most productions to set out the craft services table. These include: shoot chronologically to avoid reshoots; don’t force a big idea into a small budget; avoid effects and keep the crew small. Of course, if you can get Paddy Considine on your pay-roll, and call in a favour from the Arctic Monkeys, so much the better.

Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee opens on 9 October, and is released on DVD on 26 October.

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