Saturday, September 8, 2007

TIFF 2007: My Winnipeg (Canada)

My Winnipeg (Canada) directed by Guy Maddin
Friday, September 7, 2007

How to explain a Guy Maddin film if one has not seen his films? This film is his most personal one to date. It is a sort of faux documentary about the director’s attachment to the hometown where he still lives. Maddin uses many techniques from the b&w era of German Expressionist cinema (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari anyone?) with sharp contrast, melodramatic music and beautifully strange, enigmatic figures. Maddin was on hand to narrate the film at this screening, which he did to great comic effect in the kitschy but beautiful Winter Garden theatre, which I was seeing for the first time.

He re-enacts traumatic encounters from his personal past and from Winnipeg’s history all commingling together in a strange but very entertaining pastiche. The director rented out his childhood home (assuming this is true) to reenact certain scenes from his childhood and hired actors to represent his mother (played by 40s film noir actress Ann Savage) and his three siblings. They replay key scenes from his past but Maddin also includes film and stills from Winnipeg’s history throughout the "documentary".

These include sections about the tumultuous Winnipeg General Strike of 1919; allusions to the suicide of his brother at sixteen; the demolition of the Winnipeg Arena where his father worked for 30 years with the Winnipeg Maroons; a particularly horrible fight between his mother and his sister where his mother accused her of sleeping around; the demolition of the grand old Eatons store in downtown Winnipeg to be replaced with the new, much despised sports arena; the horrible death of the eleven horses frozen in a river while trying to escape a fire and left in the ice, with their heads exposed, until the spring (true history or another fantastic figment from Maddin’s imagination?).

He ponders why so many Winnipeggers remain in the “coldest city” in North America with a population greater than 100,000 and attributes it, tongue in cheek, to the native myth that it is the magnetic pull of the waters that commingle in Winnipeg. From the peals of laughter and recognition in the audience from fellow Winnipeggers he seemed to have struck a chord.

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