Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, directed by Shane Meadows

Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, directed by Shane Meadows

Tom Jennings chuckles along with the pointed proletarian poignancy of Meadows’ latest chamber-piece.

Freestyle Manifesto. Film review – Tom Jennings
This good-natured ‘mockumentary’ romp is essentially a single-joke sketch tenuously extended to feature-length (as was Shane Meadows last film, Somers Town – reviewed in Freedom, 25th October 2008), showcasing Paddy Considine’s tour de force improvisation of a hapless failed musician with delusions of grandeur. Born when schoolfriends Considine and Meadows larked around with video cameras while bunking off, Le Donk – who’s figured in several shorts (some released as extras on earlier DVDs) – now roadies on megatour with indie-rock band Arctic Monkeys (who, typically, he misnames ‘Article Monkeys’). Meanwhile he plays Svengali to his lodger, an aspiring rapper – played by ‘real’ MC Scor-Zay-Zee (former member of Nottingham’s renowned Out Da Ville), previously famous for precipitating a Beeb kerfuffle over 2004 single ‘Great Britain’ (excoriating its imperialist past and present; equating the Queen and Saddam Hussein!). Perhaps surprisingly (to those not au fait with UK hip-hop), he eventually delivers an absolutely blistering set at Old Trafford thanks to Donk’s bluffing blustering blagging.

Meadows and trendy label Warp Records’ Mark Herbert also play themselves – giving a pronounced whiff of complacent cool-Britannia entrepreneurs mocking those less culturally and economically nouveau-riche; resembling so much ‘alternative’ comedy mining the tedious stratifications of student-union pretension. Yet affection and respect shine through – certainly for Scor-Zay-Zee’s genuine subaltern talent, but for his grotesquely egomanic devilish advocate too. Visiting his heavily-pregnant ex – now stably shacked-up with new man – Donk’s scattershot vituperative envy demonstrates hysterical defence against the overwhelming shame of painful inadequacies which have doubtless been amply confirmed at all class-prejudicial angles from his get-go. Thus primed with appropriate intuitive understanding, we can appreciate without judgement or rancour the poignancy of these particular peccadilloes of the working-class masculinity that this director always elaborates and unravels with consummate skill. Plus, the joker gets the last laugh, his obstinate persistence having anticipated reflected glory from his protégé’s breakthrough – and, remember, temporary triumphs aren’t necessarily merely consolations.

This film also heralds Meadows’ and Warp’s initiative supporting ‘Five-Day Features’ completed within a week – “like Dogme, only in a hurry” – favouring grassroots underground production tactics but with proper distribution prospects. And for further UK hip-hop-related proof of ‘guerilla’ cinema’s power, check Greg Hall’s The Plague (2006) – chronicling a weekend in the life of four twenty-something London friends; shot on mini-DV for a miraculous 3½ grand – which says more about contemporary multicultural metropolitan youth than, for example, bigger-budget efforts like Bullet Boy (Saul Dibb, 2004), Noel Clarke’s urban morality tales Kidulthood (2006) and Adulthood (2008) and Erin Creevy’s middle-class melodrama Shifty (2008) combined. OK, none of the above have the wit or artful chutzpah of Le Donk; plus the agonies of shoestring fundraising demand massive gratis time and energy for downlow operations to float. But staying so close to the sources – of the filmmakers’ motivations and the subject-matter – can pay dividends rarely conceivable with the multiple alienations of mainstream industrial apparatuses.

Review first published in Freedom, Vol. 70, No. 20, October 2009.
For other reviews and essays by Tom Jennings, see:
www.variant.org.uk
www.tomjennings.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

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Tom Jennings
Nov 5 2009 10:12

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Warp Films
Dec 2 2009 16:29

Help make music f*cking history... By buying the Le Donk DVD!

Trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kARbMrgKgqQ

DVD - http://www.warpfilmstore.com/pages/Le-Donk-Film-Store.aspx?pageid=42

Warp Films
Dec 15 2009 16:15

Get into the Christmas spirit with Donk by sending your mates a free xmas card at http://www.uberagency.com/le-donk ... Calm down Kris Kringle!