365 Films in 2017 #78 My Winnipeg (2007)

Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg is one of the oddest and most charming films I have watched since I started this project. In a love letter/rejection notice to his beloved hometown, he creates an oddball documentary that blends the fantastic and the real, while purportedly portraying Maddin's escape from the ever-wintry city. Personal history vies for space with historical vignettes, all filtered through a dream landscape that obscures reality. Maddin uses recurring characters, such as his mother, played deftly and domineeringly by Ann Savage (far removed from her femme fatale roles of yesteryear like Detour), and himself, played by Darcy Fehr, usually asleep on the train that never can leave the city. The film has to be seen to be believed, and I highly recommend it. The eerie narration and dead pan humor of the narrator's script are worth the price of admission alone.

I will mention a few other high points because I cannot capture them all. Here are a few key scenes/events/vignettes that the film covers to wondrously bizarre effect. Maddin rents his old family home at 800 Elice avenue and reenacts moments from his life with actors to come to terms with them, including the perpetual straightening of an area rug. In another memorable moment, a racetrack fire in which horses escaped into the Red River leads to their heads appearing frozen in the river each winter to the admiration of local couples. The film also depicts the destruction of local landmarks, including Eaton's Building and the Winnipeg arena, both which play major roles in the director's life -- the image of a fictional hockey team, "the Black Tuesdays," made up of men at least in their 70s, is as striking as that of the horse's heads.

Maddin masterfully juxtaposes the odd with the banal, creating a portrait of the city that captures the understated feeling of Canadian humor and existence. Self-effacing and celebratory, it is an indescribable piece of film making that I am adding to my annual winter watching list and will recommend to my more conventional friends who probably will not understand. But they should. Like a Weakerthans song, Seth's underrated graphic narrative It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken, or a less outrageous Kids in the Hall sketch, it captures something ephemeral about Canada or any other wintry place, covering the minor and the major moments, showing that one can feel love for a place, while still wanting to leave.


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