Because There Are No Donkeys In It

At last — DONKEYS, written by my friend Colin McLaren and directed by my friend and fellow alumni Morag McKinnon, hits the streets today in DVD form. Order it via the link below.

The follow-up film to RED ROAD has taken so long to secure a release that Morag has almost completed her next feature, BREATHING, a documentary co-directed with the mighty Emma Davie, about which more soon. Two years between first festival appearance and DVD. Almost as if someone weren’t quite sure how to sell it.

That trio on the DVD cover provides one clue. Brian Pettifer was in IF, O LUCKY MAN! and BRITANNIA HOSPITAL. Martin Compston was in SWEET SIXTEEN. James Cosmo was in TRAINSPOTTING. So DONKEYS is like SWEET SIXTEEN crossed with O LUCKY MAN! and TRAINSPOTTING. Kate Dickey, recently seen as a mop-topped space doctor in PROMETHEUS, is also a key character. And Brian Pettifer was also in AMADEUS. So maybe it’s AMADEUS meets PROMETHEUS. But that would imply that it featured an old man with a rubber head. It doesn’t.

Look: James Cosmo was the voice of the orang utan in BABE: PIG IN THE CITY. Martin Compston is in STRIPPERS VS WEREWOLVES. You do the math. Any way you look at it, this is a must-buy.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been an advertising copywriter after all. Although I submit that had anybody used my slogans “Goodness Gracious Great Bolognese!” and “Lurpak Spreadable: it’s so spreadable, it’s incredible!” I would be able to retire and live on the moon in a palace made of diamonds and chocolate.

In DONKEYS, compulsive liar James Cosmo learns he’s dying and tries to make up with his estranged daughter (Dickie) while avoiding owning up to his unacknowledged son (Compston) by trying to convince his not-very-bright best friend (Pettifer) that he is the lad’s father. If farce is tragedy played at double speed, DONKEYS is farce played a two-thirds speed. They don’t have a category for that yet.

Contains mild peril.

The concept behind Sigma and Zentropa’s “Advance Party” scheme is that different filmmakers make up their own stories about a group of characters created by Lone Scherfig. A loose concept allowing for considerable freedom of movement — but my chums still recast actors, rewrote life stories, and reduced some roles to walk-ons. Good luck squaring the events of DONKEYS with the events of RED ROAD — it’s fun coming up with theories to make sense of the lacunae. But more fun just to watch DONKEYS, which is as THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ is to EL: crazier, funnier and plottier.

Colin writes:  “Donkeys is a heartfelt look at the human condition, containing Brian Pettifer’s (to date) sole outing as Mahatma Gandhi. Well, now you can own it. And him. It’s out on DVD on Monday. One pence from each purchase goes to keeping me in pens. £1.49 would buy me pens for up to six months. Please give what you can, as long as it’s nine pounds, the cost of the DVD. Thank you.”

Oh wait, I’ve got a slogan for it: “As funny as cancer! No — funnier!”

To continue the supernatural blaxploitation theme, limericks on BLACULA by Hilary Barta, the lord of limerwrecks, are here and here.

Buy DONKEYS here —

Donkeys [DVD]

Morag and Colin’s BAFTA-winning short HOME is included on this —

Cinema 16 – British Short Films [DVD]

8 Responses to “Because There Are No Donkeys In It”

  1. A man of strange contradictions!

    Tony Scott directed my all-time favourite film, The Hunger. A bisexual vampire romance with Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon, it was a formative experience for doomed romantics in the age of AIDS.

    Here he showed the potential to become one of the all-time great cinema aesthetes, along with Luchino Visconti and Jean Cocteau. Yet most of his later work is barely watchable. I’m still not entirely sure what happened.

  2. Well, The Hunger wasn’t well received, so I guess he went in a different direction. The “rock n roll” side of him was obviously a genuine part of his character, though some who worked with him found him much more intelligent than that.

    It’s probably too soon to be summing up his career. I liked some of his films and I’m sorry he met such a sad end.

  3. Wholly in agreement with your final sentence, David C. I watched an extended interview with Scott this morning and have to confess I had underrated how thoughtful and insightful he might be, despite liking several of his films quite a lot.

    I hope Donkeys eventually makes it to the US, although I may not want to hold my breath.

  4. If you’re able to play multi-region (and if you have a BluRay or a computer you surely can), I’d recommend buying Donkeys from the UK. Of course I’m biassed, but I do think it’s very good.

    The writer Henry Bean said that talking with Ridley about abstracts was just “okay” but he was very sharp when the talk turned to visuals, whereas Tony was an all-round extremely bright guy. Though again I think he applied it mainly to the look.

  5. Your point is well taken — and Donkeys is now on its way (via your link, of course!).

    His focus certainly seemed to be on the look — I think he could be a bit oblivious to the content if it was likely to look good, as in the explosion at the beginning of Déjà Vu — but it was interesting to hear him on the sustained influence of his training as a painter. Kind of makes me want to do a Tony Scott-Maurice Pialat double bill.

  6. Yay! Let’s spread the fame of Donkeys across the globe!

    I think my biggest problem with the Scott style was his tendency to repeat favourite tropes: ceiling fans, tobacco filters, video walls. His brother probably goes for more of a distinct and individual palette for each film.

    I’m odd on Scott: I disliked True Romance intensely, appreciated Crimson Tide except the Tarantino bits, loved the first half of The Hunger but found the ending laughable. Deja Vu is good fun. Domino seemed crassly obnoxious but at least in a quite distinctive way.

  7. I’ll do my bit!

    Crimson Tide and Deja Vu are my favorite Scotts, and as derivative as it is — albeit quite openly so — I still like Enemy of the State. I also enjoyed the rustbelt feel of Unstoppable. Overall, I think it’s his crisp exposition that most does it for me — he had a great way of succinctly bringing you into his stories, whether you then chose to buy into them or not.

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