IFC Films & SXSW Present the Second Annual On-Demand Film Festival
Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee (March 14/10)
Affable yet thoroughly forgettable, Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee is a fake documentary detailing rock roadie Le Donk's (Paddy Considine) efforts at securing a slot for his rapping buddy Scor-Zay-Zee (Dean Palinczuk) at an outdoor music festival in Manchester - with the bulk of the film subsequently (and primarily) following the two characters as they prepare for the pivotal gig. Filmmaker Shane Meadows has infused Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee with a free-wheeling and off-the-cuff sensibility that results in an almost aggressively uneven atmosphere, as the writer/director places an ongoing emphasis on sequences of a decidedly inconsequential nature (ie Le Donk and the film crew argue over hotel accommodations). It is, as a result, not surprising to note that the movie is only able to hold the viewer's interest on a progressively sporadic basis, with Considine's impressively immersive performance standing as the one consistently compelling attribute within the proceedings. The pervasive lack of laughs cements Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee's place as a well-intentioned misfire, although - to be fair - it's not difficult to envision certain viewers finding more to embrace here than others (ie fans of the British hip-hop scene might be willing to overlook the film's myriad of deficiencies).
Lovers of Hate (March 15/10)
Though it boasts an opening half hour that's just about unwatchable, Lovers of Hate ultimately establishes itself as a mildly diverting comedy/drama that gets by primarily on the strength of its oddball premise. The movie follows aspiring writer Rudy (Chris Doubek) as he attempts to cope with the skyrocketing fame of his successful younger brother (Alex Karpovsky's Paul), with their already strained relationship pushed towards the breaking point after Paul begins dating Rudy's ex-girlfriend (Heather Kafka's Diana). There's little doubt that Doubek's all-too-convincing work as the exceedingly bitter Rudy plays an instrumental role in initially holding the viewer at arm's length, as the actor efficiently transforms his character into a seriously unpleasant figure whose pervasive obnoxiousness is almost impossible to stomach (ie while listening to a book-on-tape of one of his brother's novels, Rudy complains incessantly about the characters, the plot, and even the reader). It's only as the primary plot thrust - which would seemingly be more at home within a horror flick - kicks in that Lovers of Hate becomes more than just a typically low-rent indie, with the admittedly bizarre yet distinctly compelling nature of the movie's second half effectively sustaining the viewer's interest right through to its rather underwhelming and needlessly vague conclusion. The increasingly engaging atmosphere is perpetuated by the impressively naturalistic performances, as the trio of performers - Doubek, especially - inhabit their respective roles with an ease that inevitably compensates for writer/director Bryan Poyser's ostentatiously low-rent modus operandi (which, in the final analysis, effectively sets Lovers of Hate apart from its kitchen-sink indie brethren).
The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights (March 15/10)
Accessible to neophytes yet geared to fans, The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights follows eccentric rock duo The White Stripes as they tour Canada's ten provinces and three territories over the course of a one-year period. Director Emmett Malloy offers up a good balance of performance and behind-the-scenes footage, and although the former is admittedly handled quite well and presented in the gritty style of the band's onstage presence, there's little doubt that it's the latter that ultimately sets The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights apart from its run-of-the-mill concert-movie brethren. It's consequently not surprising to note that the film is at its best when focused on Jack and Meg White's exploits within the various cities on their itinerary, with the highlight undoubtedly a sequence in which the pair engage in a meet-and-greet with several Indian tribal elders. Malloy's up-close-and-personal treatment of his mysterious subjects results in a surprisingly intimate atmosphere that's heightened by Jack's candid demeanor, although it's worth noting that the singer ultimately perpetuates just as many band-related myths as he debunks (ie he continually refers to he and Meg as siblings). The movie's striking footage of sundry out-of-the-way Canadian locales cements its place as an engaging, foot-tapping documentary, with the unexpectedly poignant finale ensuring that The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights concludes on an impressively memorable note.