It’s been five years since director Shane Meadows and his long-term on screen collaborator Paddy Considine last worked together. That was for Dead Man’s Shoes, a violent revenge drama that took Considine’s natural, wired intensity and amped it up to an uncomfortable degree. Considine tends to specialise – for Meadows, at least – in charismatic, explosive figures and while his run of movies together with Meadows has proved thrilling and memorable, you might have cause to wonder where they could take their collaborations next.
Well, Le Donk – while a slight 70 minutes (the same length as last year’s Somers Town) – certainly offers much in terms of demonstrating the adaptability of their professional relationship. It’s an improvised fake documentary, with Meadows playing himself, shooting a film about Le Donk (Considine), a former roadie who gets himself back in the game working for the Arctic Monkeys at their Old Trafford gigs in 2007. Along the way, Le Donk uses the opportunity to gain valuable exposure for genuine Nottingham rap prodigy, Dean Palinczuk, aka Scorzayzee. (It is, perhaps, perfectly reasonable that Meadows would know an 18 stone rapper called Scorzayzee).
Fans of Meadows may recognise Le Donk; the character first appeared, in fact, about 8 years ago on the DVD Extras for Once Upon A Time In The Midlands (you can see it here). Apparently, both Meadows and Considine were keen to give Le Donk a proper outing. The impetus for resurrecting here came when Meadows was invited to film the Monkeys gig, but turned it down; whatever he shot would never be as good as Woodstock, he claimed. Instead, they decided to film around the gig and give Le Donk a starring role. They shot this for £30,000 in 5 days. Incidentally, it’s the first in what Meadows hopes will be a wave of five-day features designed to encourage first-time filmmakers.
The result – for anyone who’s seen Saxondale – may broadly feel like pretty familiar turf. Le Donk (real name: Nicholas) is a gormless, self-delusional figure. He’s split with his girlfriend Olivia (Olivia Coleman), who’s close to giving birth to their first child. In the interim, she’s settled with a new boyfriend who’s clearly everything Le Donk isn’t: kind, compassionate and sympathetic. He kicks out at everyone he can: at Meadows at the start of the film, at Scorzayzee pretty much throughout. He is, he believes, clearly better than all of them. This being a Shane Meadows film, though, there is redemption.
It’s an extremely funny 70 minutes, with Le Donk’s constant stream of malapropisms providing much of the humour. When Meadows’ sound man is trying to attach a mic to him, he bellows “I feel like Donnie Darko about to infiltrate the mob!” He refers to the “Article Monkeys”. In fact, you wonder quite how he managed to charm Olivia — seemingly a repository of endless tolerance when it comes to her ex — so hopelessly crass and socially inept is he.
The Arctic Monkeys cameo (Considine, you may remember, starred in their “Leave Before The Lights Come On” video) — watching Scorzayzee rapping to an empty house at the Old Trafford soundcheck. Scorzayzee himself is a mountain of a lad, decked out in an over-size t-shirt and a baseball cap with “Kids need hugs not drugs” emblazoned on it. He seems withdrawn and awkward, but on stage his raps are surprisingly effective — despite Le Donk’s insistence on adding his own awful, pointless chorus (“Calm down Deirdre Barlow! Calm down Harold Shipman!”). If you want to see if yourself, here’s a clip.
Anyway, it’s good — if not entirely revelatory — stuff, and a nice stop-gap before Meadows’ next, proper feature. A horror film, apparently. Can’t wait.
OK, I’m going to go and try and see some short films now, as I’ve got a screening of Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank at 8. I’ll be blogging about that first thing tomorrow. See you then.