Connect with us

Film

The Filmstruck Cram — Day 13: ‘My Winnipeg’

Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg is exactly the style of film I wouldn’t reach for if not for the ease of the Filmstruck streaming service. Easier to admire to adore, more challenging in terms of presentation than ideas, Maddin’s film (which he called a “docu-fantasia”) is an eccentric and outlandish portrait of Winnipeg — the director’s hometown. Yet, once the viewer is able to parse the film’s thematic perspective, it becomes obvious that Maddin has actually used opacity and outlandishness to obscure a universal sensation: the primal need of a person to move on from their hometown (and upbringing), and the mishmash of nostalgia and complacency which prevents them from doing so.

My Winnipeg is comprised of a number of mythic vignettes presented as historical account (although veracity is not really the point here); there is an experiment in which actors recreate Maddin’s childhood, as well as a series of recurring images of Maddin (portrayed by Darcy Fehr) on a sleepy train out of the city. All the images rush together, punctuated by title cards that echo the real Maddin’s jarring, stream-of-consciousness narration. Describing the rivers that meet in Winnipeg, Maddin merely repeats the words “fork” and “lap,” as a map of the city is transposed over the V-shape of a woman’s thighs. The word “Winnipeg” is repeated so many times in his voiceover that it begins to sound funny and lose meaning — which is likely intentional.

The vignettes vary in subject matter and accuracy, and help Maddin explain the sleepiness and dreariness he finds in present-day Winnipeg. One shows the city’s historic hockey rink being demolished after the Jets moved to Arizona, while another describes the ubiquitous department store that was leveled in favor of a generic new development that no one wanted. Change, of course, is an unavoidable fact of urban development. Less universal are the featured stories which skew apocryphal, such as a séance that devolves into an eerie ballet, or a fire at a racetrack which forced horses to flee into a frozen river — where they remained all winter, as Winnipeg residents picnicked around their lifeless heads.

Maddin’s upbringing figures heavily in the film, which comes as no surprise. Played by Ann Savage, the director’s mother is framed as a domineering figure, albeit one that provided his family with a solid foundation. The director turns poetic describing his childhood home above a beauty parlor (a “gynocracy”) run by his mother and aunt. These parts of the film are most evocative of the cocktail of pride and shame that flows throughout the rest of My Winnipeg. Maddin describes a city full of sleepwalking people, overcome by high snow drifts and bland urban development, yet the director picks at something unique about his city as well. He tells us of a rumor which states there are hidden rivers beneath the forks, a source of power that imbues his city with mystery and — in one anecdote about an underground bathhouse which may be tapped into the hidden rivers — sensuality.

Roger Ebert bestowed My Winnipeg with a breathless, glowing review, and listed it among his best films of the year when it came out. I can see why. Maddin’s is a vision sui generis, but it taps into a suspicion we all might harbor: that our origins are both tragically unremarkable and inherently mythic. Even the smallest towns have their landmarks, destined to be replaced by high rises and retail developments. Maddin, with pinpoint precision, targets the clashing emotions on either side of a razor’s edge, between needing to escape and desperately wanting to protect what’s yours.

For more Filmstruck Cram, click here.

Written By

Mike hails from the great state of Massachusetts, where he structured his identity around three inarguable truths - that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, Pearl Jam is the best band since 1980, and those who disagree are dead wrong. He complains about the proliferation of superhero movies while gleefully forking over sixteen dollars for each new release, and believes Tom Cruise has yet to make a bad movie. Follow Mike on twitter @haigismichael.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Queer As Folk 1999 retrospective Queer As Folk 1999 retrospective

Queer As Folk – A Cultural Milestone

TV

Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 4 "Dear Billy" Review Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 4 "Dear Billy" Review

Stranger Things Hits a Terrifying Home Run with “Chapter 4: Dear Billy”

TV

John Carpenter's The Thing 1984 movie retrospective John Carpenter's The Thing 1984 movie retrospective

Ambiguity Makes for Better Horror in 1982’s The Thing

Film

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One The Witch: Part 2. The Other One

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One is a Disappointing Genre Hybrid

Culture

Web of Make Believe review Web of Make Believe review

Netflix’s The Web of Make Believe Gets Off to a Scary Start 

TV

Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 6 "The Dive" Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 6 "The Dive"

Stranger Things Scrapes the Bottom with “Chapter 6: The Dive”

TV

Top Gun: Maverick Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick is Franchise Filmmaking at its Best

Film

Jurassic World Dominion - Tilt Jurassic World Dominion - Tilt

Jurassic World Dominion Misunderstands the Entire Franchise’s Allure

Film

Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 1 “The Hellfire Club” Review Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 1 “The Hellfire Club” Review

Stranger Things Returns with the Dark, Lumbering “Chapter 1: The Hellfire Club”

TV

Stranger Things Season 4 Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse Stranger Things Season 4 Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse

“Chapter 2: Vecna’s Curse” Is Both Too Much and Not Enough for Stranger Things

TV

RRR RRR

RRR Delivers Infectious Charm and Unparalleled Action

Film

Stranger Things Catches Its Breath with “Chapter 5: The Nina Project”

TV

The Interceptor The Interceptor

Netflix’s The Interceptor is Sunk by Laziness

Culture

Stranger Things Screeches To a Halt with “Chapter 7: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”

TV

The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets: Which is Better? The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets: Which is Better?

The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets— Which is Better?

TV

Rutger Hauer Rutger Hauer

Blade Runner and the Particular Qualities that Noir Fans Can Appreciate

Friday Film Noir

Connect