Credits: Directed by Guy Maddin
Details: (M), 80 mins, Canada, English
Synopsis: Starring B-movie goddess Ann Savage (Detour) and filmed in black and white, Guy Maddin creates a dreamlike homage to his home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Hiring actors to play his mother, his sister and his two brothers, My Winnipeg is Maddin\'s own account of the events—real or imaginary—which affected his life. While he may wish to escape his life in Canada\'s north, from the sleepwalking locals to the frozen, fleeing horses, My Winnipeg is testimony to the unique experiences of childhood and the way it may shape one\'s artistic sensibilities.
A dreamy play on the documentary form
My Winnipeg, the dreamlike reminiscences of director Guy Maddin’s boyhood life in Canada’s seventh largest city, makes for an extraordinarily captivating film experience.
Reinterpreting his own memories of life with his mother in the city known colloquially as The Forks (because of the two rivers – the Red and the Assiniboine – that converge on its outskirts), Maddin utilises the documentary form to take us on a journey through his psyche, blurring cityscapes, exaggerating the kind of small town legends that would impact a boy’s mind (the horses frozen into the river is a highlight) and instilling in us the bleakness and uniqueness of Manitoba’s capital city.
While always trying to escape the physical confines of Winnipeg (a once-robust city now made stagnant by stalled industrial growth and the subsequent economic downturn), Maddin – long-considered one of the Great White North’s most specialised cinematic artists – conveys anger, regret and melancholy for the town, homelife and eccentricities that have fuelled his creativity since stepping behind the camera in 1986.
In spite of its ambiguous, esoteric style, My Winnipeg establishes a deeply-etched truthfulness in its portrayal of the mother-son relationship. Maddin’s mother, played with flamboyant disregard for her character’s shortcomings by 1940s movie star Ann Savage, is not only painfully real but also hilariously funny on-screen; her presence infuses large sections of the film, despite her absence. Maddin’s exploration of his dysfunctional family life mirrors the crumbling facade of this major city. The symbolism is potent; the skill with which Maddin applies it, masterful.
It’s not an easy film to warm to – the bleakness of the monochrome photography, the cynicism of the early moments of the film and the stillness of the narration will keep some viewers at arm’s length. But Guy Maddin has created a major work that captures the sense of loss that a dwindling town and an ageing man both share. It won’t make you want to go to Winnipeg, but it will make you feel as though you’ve already been.
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