My Winnipeg (2007)

Hockey politics, a Nazi invasion of Canada, sleepwalking, strange municipal laws, seances, B-grade melodrama reenactments of childhood events that may not have happened performed by actors including one who the narrator claims is really his mother, frozen horses, a daily soap opera whose action over the 50 years  it’s been on has consisted entirely of a man threatening to jump off a building ledge… it’s Guy Maddin’s “docufantasia” My Winnipeg, and it could be described as strange to say the least. My experience of Maddin has hitherto been limited to seeing The Saddest Music in the World (which I recall being kind of befuddled by) and reading more about his fascination with silent cinema and his attempts to try and recreate that style in his own films, fondness for what his IMDB bio calls “lo-fi” techniques like Super 8, that sort of thing, and I knew he had some sort of reputation as an interesting artist among your hardcore cinephile crowd. As such, though I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by the other film, when I found My Winnipeg at the library I thought I should check it out, maybe see if I liked it better, which I probably didn’t. The narrative thread, if you can call it that, concerns “Maddin” trying to escape Winnipeg, the town he’s spent his whole life in, while trying to erect a somewhat absurdist myth about the place. This is done in somewhat fussy style, involving an assortment of period newsreel footage, reenactments, backprojected slides, and Maddin’s own narration (which he sometimes performs live at showings of the film), itself a curious mix of portentous semi-poetry, seemingly genuine anger, and so forth. It’s not uninteresting but something about it never entirely clicked with me so that it never seemed more than mildly amusing, the surrealism felt forced, and even at just 80 minutes it seemed to wear out its welcome well before the end.

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