Friday, September 07, 2007

TIFF (movie review): My Winnipeg (8/8)

Film festivals can allow you to have moviegoing experiences you might never have otherwise. I remember seeing a special print of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with live musical accompaniment at SIFF '01 (taking a look at my review I see I have learned a lot about the silent era since then!)

Guy Maddin did not make films in the silent era, but his movies have always emulated their style (most recently The Saddest Music in the World) while bringing something new and bizarre and beautiful. My Winnipeg is a documentary, sort of, about Maddin's childhood, sort of, and the city he grew up in, sort of. It's hard to explain.

What made this screening more special than usual was the fact that Maddin himself was there to narrate the film! While music and some dialogue came from the film, Maddin stood to one side and performed bizarre and hilarious narration leading us through his childhood in desolate Winnipeg, and a fictional (?) account of his quest to sublet the house he grew up in and film a reenactment of his upbringing using lookalike actors -- and his real mother. But it's not his real mother, it's Ann Savage. And the woman subletting the house decided at the last minute that she didn't want to leave, so she's hanging out in every shot.

Maddin's Winnipeg is a snowy prison, where everyone is trying to get out, but they can't stay awake on the train and end up right back where they started. It's a city inhabited by ghosts with jangling keys, sleepwalking anywhere but the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. Words flash onscreen for a few frames, bizarre and beautiful images are superimposed over each other. One sequence is particularly surreal, playing out without a word from Maddin.

This is a really, really weird movie. I want to emphasize how funny it is, because that's what surprised my viewing partner the most: how much he laughed (the reenactment scenes are especially hilarious). My Winnipeg is a comedy, but it's probably closer to a documentary, though I have no idea how much of it was real and invented. It's also quite sad, such as when a landmark sports arena is destroyed to make way for... well, an unused lot, as of today. (Sadly, demolition footage shows that this part is real.)

In conclusion: if you can see My Winnipeg, even if you can't have Guy Maddin performing it for you in person, don't miss it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The arena was only destroyed last year, and it will become an expansion to the neighbouring shopping mall next door within the next year or two. you can find pics of it being demolished on youtube. it wasnt that great an arena, at least when it comes to anything other than hockey. the new arena is much better and regularly sells out concerts, is one of the top 100 busiest arenas in north america.

the horse head thing is true though..