My Winnipeg (Canada; 80 min.)


directed by: Guy Maddin
starring: Cory Cassidy; Darcy Fehr; Ann Savage; Louis Negin
My Winnipeg
 

Michael says: "What a delightful evening in the Wintergarden theatre spent enjoying the world premiere of Guy Maddin's pseudo-documentary MY WINNIPEG. Maddin was challenged by the Documentary channel to make a doc on his hometown of Winnipeg, and Maddin being Maddin utilized his considerable talents to transform the story of the heart of the heart of Canada into one of his fantastic, surreal signature films. While telling the tale of this cold, northern city, Maddin leans heavily on nostalgia, both his own and the the collective population's, delving into the personal to explore how growing up with his family in this city shaped his psyche.

"In addition to the exploration of the personal, Maddin brings in two other threads to flesh out his tale. In dreamlike sequences reminiscent of early Russian films, Winnipeg likens the peopls of Winnipeg to sleepwalkers, focusing on one particular man standing in for himself, on a train trying to escape the city but ever being drawn back. He also touches on some of the key moments of the city's history giving the non-Winnipegger a strong if perhaps skewed look at its origins and upbringing.

"Looking at Maddin's upbringing in the context of MY WINNIPEG, it becomes clear where the themes for his movie come from. The loneliness and isolation of THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, the bizarre beauty parlor and hockey shenanigans of COWARDS BEND THE KNEE and the watchful mother and distant father of BRAND UPON THE BRAIN are all in strong evidence in MY WINNIPEG. Classic film noir star Ann Savage provides a delightful turn as Maddin's mother, adding both camp humor and a sense of danger to Maddin's memories. As an added treat, the premiere featured live narration from Maddin himself, an experience that will not be repeated if the filmmaker has anything to say about it. 4 1/2 cats

MY WINNIPEG was screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival."
 
Bruce says: "It is always a joy to watch talented artists mature. Guy Maddin is one of the most innovative of contemporary filmmakers by virtue of his unique imagination and cinematic style. As much as I have appreciated his last several films I have felt that his writing was the weakest link in the creative chain. Maddin readily admits that he had no aspirations to make a documentary film; strangely enough it is a perfect fit. In previous films Maddin has let his imagination run wild but has left the viewer with the arduous task of following his train of thought. The focus of a single subject has tightened up his writing. In my opinion, MY WINNIPEG is his best work.

"As the film begins Ann Savage, noted primarily for her performance in the film noir cult classic DETOUR, bleats accusingly, 'Who did it? The boy on the track team of the man with the tire iron?' As she repeats the lines it is evident this is a rehearsal. 'What for?' is the question. It is nearly halfway through the film when we learn that Ann Savage is portraying Maddin’s mother and her perplexing lines are delivered during a reenactment of a confrontation that Maddin’s sister had with her mother shortly after she hit a deer while driving home. He also inserts a wonderful fantasy about his mother appearing in episodes of 'The Ledge Man' where she talks her son out of suicide using a different ploy each day.

"Maddin tours his home town stopping off at places he used to live. He visits streets named after famous prostitutes and relates sports lore and folk lore as he travels around town. Maddin does an excellent job of illustrating how unfettered gentrification yields dubious results. Landmarks like Eaton’s Department Store and the Winnipeg Arena have been crushed by giant wrecking balls only to be replaced by eyesores or nothing at all. Prone to fantasy even in documentary format, Maddin relates hilarious vignettes of the dance of the hairless boner, the old signage graveyard, and the frozen horse head park where lovers courted among the tragic creatures. Maddin provides a decent history and sense of place for his viewers but it is his whimsy that elevates MY WINNIPEG to the highest plane. 5 cats

"MY WINNIPEG was screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival"

 
Thom says: "I saw this at a different showing at TIFF but I have little to add. I’m a giant Guy Maddin fan & have given all his full-length films 5 cats & this is as good, if not better, than all of them. At the Q&A after the film an audience member asked Maddin why he hadn’t left Winnipeg after all his negative impressions. The man also said that he had grown-up & lived in Winnipeg & had only moved away 5 years ago but he didn’t have many negative memories. Maddin then said, 'Well, you moved away & I’m still living there.' The dialogue is truly delicious in this absolute winner!!!"
 
Jason says: "Guy Maddin has long had a love-hate relationship with his home town of Winnipeg; most of his previous films have been set there and portrayed it as a place nearly as dreary as it is bizarre. MY WINNIPEG isn't very different from his purely fictional films in that respect. The affection comes across more clearly here than in those films, even as it is delivered with a kick.

"Maddin describes MY WINNIPEG as 'docu-fantasia,' which is as good a term as any. He inserts himself into the film with a couple of peculiar devices - in one, he is on a train out of town hoping to escape before the hypnotic snow causes him to sleepwalk back home; in another, he is renting his childhood home and hiring actors to play his siblings so that he and his mother can re-enact crucial moments from his childhood in a scientific experiment to determine the cause of his neuroses (Darcy Fehr plays Maddin, noir actress Ann Savage plays his mother). He posits that not only do rail lines and rivers converge in in Winnipeg - 'the forks,' he repeats, like a dozy mantra - but so do the ley lines along which mystic energy flows. This is Maddin's world, after all, and therefore peculiar.

"It's so peculiar that the audience has to wonder how far the tall tales Maddin tells have evolved from reality. Does Winnipeg really have an uncommonly high population of sleepwalkers, and if so, do the city laws requiring their accommodation actually exist? Was a team of horses flash-frozen in the river after a fire, their protruding heads forming a grotesque yet arousing backdrop for the locals' evening promenades? Did 'What If?' Day, with its simulated Nazi invasion, actually panic the city? One could look such things up, but does it really matter? These legends may say more about the city and Maddin's relation with it than mere facts might, and the stories themselves are uniformly hilarious. There's a great collection of anecdotes here, and they absolutely make Winnipeg a memorable city.

"Other sections of the movie focus on how the city has changed over the years, and there's something kind of universal about those segments. He talks about how the diminishing importance of river and rail transport have reduced Winnipeg's importance as a shipping hub. There's a section on the city's uniquely constructed public swimming pool. Local department stores close and are replaced with chains. But for all that, the real passion comes out when it comes time to discuss how the city's hockey fans have been treated. We hear how the Winnipeg Arena was a major part of Maddin's youth, and there's a certain satisfaction when the 2006 implosion only destroys the additions to the original structure. There's no such love for the MTS Centre that replaced it, which isn't even large enough to host an NHL team should the Jets be replaced.

"Anger fairly drips from Maddin's voice when he talks about the Jets leaving the city, a change from the whimsical or resigned tones he uses through much of the rest of the feature. It's a bit odd to hear Maddin's voice so directly; for as much as many of his films contain autobiographical material, he would distance himself by having an actor portray him, placing the stories in a fantastic context, and a visual style that suggests the first third of the twentieth century. That's all still there; "My Winnipeg"'s black and white photography mostly looks like a long-lost movie, frequently grainy but sometimes sharp. The action itself is often silent, with just Jason Staczek's music and Madidn's narration, with the exception being the recreated scenes from Maddin's youth, where we get to enjoy femme fatale Ann Savage's first major role in fifty years.

"To a certain extent, this verbiage is kind of unnecessary; this film is mainly going to appeal to those with an interest in Winnipeg and Guy Maddin's fans. If you're in the first group, remember that the title does promise that it's Maddin's Winnipeg and expect strangeness (although this may be Maddin's most mainstream film). For those in the second, well, enjoy. This is Maddin at his funniest and most playful. 5 cats

"Seen 28 April 2008 at Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival of Boston)"