My Winnipeg (2008) ****
Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Winnipeg. Everything in Winnipeg is a euphemism. Sleep walkers hold the keys to their old homes! By law! Nazi Fascists invaded Winnipeg! The coldest city in the world! Home of the Ultravixens! Forks and the Forks under the Forks, and the horsehead picnic tables! Hermaphrodite streets - half front street, half back lane! Masons, ghosts, spirits and sad buildings! Citizen Girl! Yes, you can find these things in Winnipeg, Winnipeg, wonderful Winnipeg!
If you've ever seen a film like My Winnipeg before, it was likely only in your dreams, or the dreams of the mad poet of Winnipeg, Guy Maddin. Maddin's love of the silent film era has shaped his own visual style, shot usually on old grainy film stock, appearing as it his films were perhaps well preserved 1920s avant garde. He's built a career on making films so outrageously insane by modern film-making standards. His films are usually either bizarre horrors or totally unique comedies, or both. My Winnipeg is a film of sinisterly off the wall humor, conveyed through Guy Maddin's narration (played by Darcy Fehr). One gem: "My father died, with nothing left to do, he died. I'd like to say he spontaneously combusted on the ice at the area, that would have been great."
The narration often doubles back on itself, repeating itself in different forms, or entirely contradicting itself in single sentences. All the while the images (usually grainy black and white, but also occasionally in color or animation) are punctuated with flash cards, usually in single or short phrases (Tragedy! Dead Man walking! Dance of the Hairless Boners, Naked! Hairless! Dance! Swollen Pride! Why?!) They flash only for a fraction of a sentence, making them difficult to read.
I guess if My Winnipeg could be placed in a genre, they would have to call it a slapstick documentary. Maddin uses archive footage mixed with Maddin's own. The central thesis of the film is Maddin's memories and the city's as well. To begin, he rides a train, sleeping, while it rolls around the Winnipeg streets, seemingly unable to ever leave town. To come to terms with his inability to ever leave the city. He rents his old home for a month, to recreate his childhood memories. He recruits actors to play his siblings, and takes his mother (Ann Savage) to the home, then recreates memories and incidents from childhood. Maddin always seems to have a fascination with mothers, his mother. Elsewhere, he details the Masonic undercurrents of the city, the occult, man pageants, Nazi takeovers, and the rape of the city's beloved Winnipeg Jets by that corrupt National Hockey League!
So, the question that many ask then, "is it true?" Being Canadian, I know some things are true, some things are not. Would you want to really know the answer anyway? Its law that everyone gets to keep the keys to their old homes. Why? Because the town has the highest sleepwalking rate in the world! They leave their homes and wander to their old houses in the dark, in the cold, in the snow! You must let them in until they wake! Is that true? I don't care to know. If I knew then I would have to have come back to reality. Unless of course Maddin's Winnipeg is reality. In which case, Winnipeg! Wonderful Winnipeg!
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