After being quite charmed by the deliciously strange, warped film noir Keyhole earlier in the year, I’ve picked up this 2007 film from Canada’s answer to David Lynch, the wonderful Guy Maddin. A phantasmagorial film essay (or, “docu-fantasia”, as he would prefer it be known), My Winnipeg delivers a subjective look at Maddin’s hometown and childhood. Blending archival public footage with home-videos and surreal re-enactments, all tied up by the omnipresent, sardonic voiceover from Maddin himself, this is an autobiographical meditation movie which is simultaneously jovial, haunting, beautiful, personal and universal.
As a lifelong inhabitant of the Manitoban city, Maddin makes for a resourceful and tour guide. But that’s not to say he is schmaltzy over the place. Early on, Maddin informs us that Winnipeg has ten times the sleepwalking rate of any city in the world. Perhaps due to the cold temperatures, or perhaps to the yearning of its people to escape the industrial city, with its large railroad yards, unimpressive downtown skyline and decrepit relics of architecture. Maddin observes that demolition is one of Winnipeg’s few growth industries; he laments the destruction of a once thriving department store and the leveling of a sports arena where he spent his youth watching Winnipeg’s NHL hockey team, yet another local institution which has fallen victim to change, having been relocated to Arizona. Presented in luscious black-and-white, the results are perfectly tragicomic, particularly when Maddin mirrors the bricks and mortar architecture with his unique home-life and tumultuous relationship with his neglectful, soap-opera star mother.
My Winnipeg is a deeply personal, cathartic meta-eulogy from Maddin which tests the audiences’ perception of heresy and history. One foot in the past, another in the present, this unique film arouses our own relationships with the places we call home and the nostalgia they bring.