Laura CliffordCanadian filmmaker Guy Maddin has always marched to his own drummer and, now, creates a personal memoir about life, especially his, in the northern city of his birth. Mixing archival film footage, home movies and staged recreations, he tells about his love and admiration for his birthplace and, also, his plans to escape from “My Winnipeg.”
Maddin’s 80-minute treatise on the city of his birth is a fascinating blend of formats as he tells the history of Winnipeg and its denizens. His recreations, particularly the scenes of a horse graveyard that became a lover’s lane site for the town’s citizens, are striking in their look and feel. And, life in this wintry city goes on despite the cold and snow. Maddin discusses Fun Park, an amusement park that functions year round. (Having been to Quebec City in the dead of winter and taking a ride on its famous ice slide at -17 degrees below zero, I can attest to the sturdiness of our Canadian neighbors in dealing with their bitter winters.)
My Winnipeg” may have limited appeal to film goers, but buffs familiar with Guy Maddin’s work will appreciate his imaginative view of his hometown. His striking combo of fact and fiction (was there really a local Winnipeg TV show called “Ledge Man,” a serial that had the titular character threatening suicide by jumping off a building ledge, for whatever reason, daily? apparently, there was!) keep the eye interested and the mind wondering what is real or not. This is a densely packed and whimsical autobiography of a man planning to leave his beloved home for the last time. I give it a B+.
Guy Maddin is a unique talent with his fanciful faux silents shot in western Canada mostly using little known actors ("The Saddest Music in the World's" Isabella Rossellini being an exception). "My Winnipeg" is an oddity in Maddin's oeuvre while still quite the part of it - while he creates myths about his hometown and shoots them in his vintage style (most stunningly, a herd of escaped horses who become frozen in a river where people later picnic), he also uses new techniques, not least of which is his own narration describing the director's intent to leave the place of his birth and film production. Maddin also takes us 'behind the scenes' to show his recreation of his childhood home, rented for the occasion, with mother played by
none other than "Detour's" Ann Savage. Most shockingly, he uses real, color footage of such events as the demolition of the Winnipeg Arena, accompanied by his tart observations on the NHL. "My Winnipeg" is an unusual valentine to a city, shot through the heart by Maddin's curious Cupid. A must-see for fans, a great introduction to the director's work for the uninitiated. B+
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