Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Winnipeg

Guy Maddin | 2007 | 80 mins | Canada

I saw this film at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and had a chance to see it again months later at Cinematheque Ontario, but sitting down to review it has been a real struggle. I guess the problem is, I know that My Winnipeg isn't Guy Maddin's best film, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that (even as a big fan of his work) it's my favourite. A personal, intimate, absurd and funny portrait of his home town, the film is a seamless blend of local history and childhood memory. Maddin has referred to his approach to this film as "docu-fantasia", and that's pretty accurate.

The film is done in Maddin's signature old-timey style, inter-cutting archival footage with filmed scenes seamlessly. One strange exception is a segment about the demolition of the old Winnipeg Arena. Perhaps as a commentary on modernity, or the changes Winnipeg is experiencing, this portion of the story is jarringly filmed in colour video, not black and white film. It's the only part of the film that really didn't work for me.

The best part by far is Maddin's narration, a memoir of his love-hate relationship with the city that has been his home for his entire life. The most bizarre stories in the film are the true ones - snapshots of the city's strange history. However, they're sandwiched between absurd fabrications, reenactments of Maddin's home life with actors playing the parts of his family members, and occasional incisive commentary about the way the city has changed over the years. 40s cult icon Ann Savage is awesome as 'mother', a central figure almost as compelling as the city itself.

It's hard to distinguish between the real Winnipeg and the author's nostalgia-soaked private Winnipeg in this film, but it kind of doesn't matter. As much as Maddin's narrative remains comically obsessed with the notion that he must leave Winnipeg for good, the entire film is actually a tender love letter to the sleepy, snowy city.

No comments: