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My Winnipeg: Guy Maddin's muse bites hard

Posted at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2008 by Euan Kerr

Guy Maddin loves and hates Winnipeg. His whimsical meditation on his hometown "My Winnipeg" is part historical documentary, part fantasy, and part child's recollection of our neighbor city just to the north.

Maddin, made the feature "The Saddest Music in the World," but his specialty is making shorts and you could see "My Winnipeg" as a series of shorts in a way, complete with titles which interject all through the film. Madden used a similar approach to memoir making the fascinating "My Dad is 100 years old" with Isabella Rosselini, but in "My Winnipeg" his muse takes him to new strangeness.

Maddin's Winnipeg is filled with sleepwalkers lulled by the never-ending winter. It stands at the Forks the confluence of the Red and the Assiniboine rivers, although Maddin tells of legends of underground rivers which come together at the same spot, creating mystical possibilities. In the film we meet spiritualists, male beauty contest winners, and hockey legends. There's archive film, Maddin home movies, and material Madden shot for the film, but it's often hard to tell what is what.

We meet Maddin's mother, who plays herself in re-enactments of significant family episodes with actors who plays Madden's siblings. It all takes place in what Maddin says was the house where he grew up.

The city of Winnipeg commissioned the film, and gave Maddin free rein to explore with his cameras. The city fathers and mothers might not have anticipated his rant about the city's hockey arenas, (he hates the new one, and is in mourning at the loss of the old one,) and his resulting venom towards the NHL, but it certainly is entertaining.

It's a wondrous strange melange of stuff. Don't go in expecting a narrative. But if you are up for being swept away on a wave of words and black and white images, "My Winnipeg" could be your Winnipeg

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