My Winnipeg

"Excellent"

My Winnipeg Review


My Winnipeg, the latest walk down memory lane from Canadian maestro Guy Maddin, flirts most flagrantly with commercial appeal and convention. This goes double for a filmmaker who has consistently burrowed himself into the fractured nostalgia of the silent era, peep shows, news reels, and ham-fisted/hard-boiled noirs with nothing but wild-blue-yonder glee. Yet, besides its outset of being a "documentary," there is little familiar about Maddin's wonderscape that isn't hardwired directly into the auteur's stylistic stigmas.

It all starts, as it so often does, on a train. The main character (Darcy Fehr), a rebellious, alternate-reality incarnation of Maddin himself, sleeps and dreams his way through the main avenues, alleyways and inlets of Winnipeg in the business class section of a ghost engine. Desperate to leave the memories of his home burg, he begins remembering his childhood, partly recreates it, and then peppers it with large swigs of fantasized recollections and recreational mythologies.

The Maddin aesthetic has always drifted from honest nostalgia to corrupted apparitions to full-blown fantasia but he has always been, at heart, a storyteller. With Winnipeg, the landscape fractures early: It opens with Maddin directing noir legend Ann Savage as she prepares to play his mother, scolding his older sister for an illicit affair she's had. What follows is a carnivalesque exhibition of destroyed totems of Maddin's youth and an awfully funny rendering of his home life as the runt of the litter, not much bigger than the pug he casts as his fondly-remembered puppy.

My Winnipeg instills memory as ice-laden spectre: insular, amorphous, and mystic in its reverie. Reality and hallucinated reminiscence blur at the edges: Who would believe that If Day, a yearly supposition of what would have happened if the Nazis had taken Manitoba, is completely legit, but what about baby Guy's birth in the locker room of homegrown hockey titans the Winnipeg Maroons? The remnants of a race track fire that burned a dozen or so horses alive allows for some of Maddin's most haunted (haunting?) imagery. Sticking out of the tundra as if frozen as they emerged from hell, the glacial horse heads, stuck in contortions of anguish, have become a tourist attraction, a photo op spectacle and, most disturbingly, a hang-out for teens. Each perverse locale he visits yields to the sublimity of Maddin's film.

What Maddin has done here is quite miraculous. Engulfing his pristine black-and-white photography in a snowy haze, lost in a wonderland of his own making, Maddin turns his birthplace into a mythic brume where one's feet are strictly forbidden from the ground. If everyone paints their hometown as a veritably unknown world of demons, saints, perverts, monuments, and "the best diner ever," Maddin goes inward and turns his hometown into his own personalized whirligig. It's a place where Ledge Man repeats are waiting for you when you get home and Citizen Girl waits to remedy even the slightest sense of injustice. And they say you can't go home again.

Let's play hockey.



My Winnipeg

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th July 2008

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Phyllis Laing

Starring: Ann Savage as Mother, Amy Stewart as Janet Maddin, as Guy Maddin, Louis Negin as Mayor Cornish, Brendan Cade as Cameron Maddin

Also starring: ,

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