As has been much publicised, Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee - the eighth film by Shane Meadows in 13 years - was made over five days (four consecutive days and one a few months later) and on a budget that seems preposterously low, even for a Meadows film. Shot on two DV cameras, behind one of which we frequently find Shane Meadows (playing himself), on real sets including a Travelodge hotel, backstage at an Arctic Monkeys show and what looks like the same row of Victorian terraced houses used in Meadows’s debut Smalltime (1996), the film makes no attempt to disguise its quickie-cheapness - in fact, it is almost worn as a badge of honour. The cast even wear the same clothes for the first three days - although this is perhaps to make continuity easier, or just to illustrate the poor personal hygiene of roadies.
The film has a simple premise: a Spinal Tap-like pseudo-documentary, it follows Le Donk, roadie to the stars (Paddy Considine), and his lodger-cum-protégé, rotund white Nottingham rapper Scor-Zay-Zee (Dean Palinczuk), as they blag their way onto an Arctic Monkeys bill at Manchester’s Old Trafford cricket ground. The dialogue is improvised around semi-scripted ideas as in HBO’s Curb your Enthusiasm and at times it’s almost as funny in that same cringing way.
Paddy Considine creates in Le Donk a character that is at times charming, cocky, confident and fun-loving, but often boorish, selfish or just plain ‘mardy’ - that particularly childish kind of sulkiness made famous (to certain parts of the country at least) by an Arctic Monkeys song. He moans, fumes and grumbles during an awkward drive from Nottingham to Manchester after being told the budget won’t cover three nights in the hotel. He is a Saxondale for the next generation (roadying for 90s indie-rockers Guided by Voices rather than Deep Purple) but equally out of time in 2009 (and out of place when not on the road). His old-fashioned idea of cool (fake American accent) seems at odds with Arctic Monkeys’ strong provincial identity (although they are starting to look and sound more like Led Zep as I write). But Considine somehow makes him a sympathetic character. Shane Meadows, as one of the two cameramen, can be seen and heard from behind the camera (failing to be a fly on the wall), offering much appreciated relationship advice when he isn’t laughing at or arguing with him.
Considine is of course a brilliant actor (he was easily the best thing about this year’s otherwise rather disappointing Red Riding Trilogy) and the film rises above the slightness of the plot thanks to the depth of his performance alone. But real-life rapper Scor-Zay-Zee proves himself worthy of his equal billing. Gormlessly wandering around, looking for somewhere to plug in his keyboard, or pulling ridiculous rapper poses for a photographer, he somehow pulls it off at the performance in front of the real (unknowing) Arctic Monkeys audience and shows himself to be a genuinely original and talented artist.
Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee was made as the first of a series of five-day features to be financed by Warp Films. Whatever the result of this initiative, Meadows’s film shows what is possible. Its simplicity, cheapness and speed of execution are its virtues, but it also succeeds as a touching portrait of ambitions and dreams and their relationship to reality.