Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Winnipeg (2007, Guy Maddin)

While I've enjoyed a number of Guy Maddin films and flat-out loved a few of them, I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a Maddin fan outright, largely because in many of his works, his style tends to wear thin by a certain point, around the time it begins degenerating into a schtick. However, just the thought of his 2003 film Cowards Bend the Knee makes me absolutely giddy, and My Winnipeg is damn near as good, which leads me to believe that Maddin's movies work best for me when they spring from somewhere in his subconscious, buried though the personal stuff might be under layers of cinema-drunkenness. So it is in My Winnipeg, which is just as quirky as anything Maddin has directed, but also feels semi-confessional, as though Maddin is giving us a good long look into the memories and fever dreams that were inspired by the city he has always called home. Of course, as tends to be the case with any vision as singular as this one, there are bound to be some literalist wags who question the veracity of this so-called documentary. Surely, they'll say, Maddin is taking severe liberties with history, fabricating wholesale a legendary Winnipeg that has never existed, comprised of "ever-opiating nuns" and ice-choked horses and "man pageants." To which all I can say- aside from "have you ever SEEN a Guy Maddin film?"- is this: look at that title again. Just like Fellini gave the world his Roma, so Maddin gives the world HIS Winnipeg, and all the fantastical wonderments it summons in his mind. It's key that Maddin describes the two dueling taxicab companies, one servicing the marked roads, the other the alleyways. Maddin's interest has always been in the alleyways- of cinema, of civic history, of his own mind. Yes, the Winnipeg history that has been committed to paper might not include half the legends that Maddin has formulated for it, but that doesn't matter one damn bit. His Winnipeg- where the Black Tuesdays patrol the ice long after the Jets have left town, where sleepwalkers steal into their old homes protected by city law, and where Guy's mother (who despite the director/narrator's claims of veracity is played- pricelessly- by Detour's Ann Savage) looms as large in the city's soap opera as she does in Guy's life- might not exist anywhere but his own mind. But damn if it isn't a great place to visit, even if you wouldn't necessarily want to live there. Rating: 8 out of 10.

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