MY WINNIPEG (Guy Maddin). 80 minutes. Special screening Thursday (June 19) at 8 pm at the Royal Cinema with live narration by Maddin (see Indie & Rep Listings); opens in regular release Friday (June 20). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
For my money, the best joke inGuy Maddin’s My Winnipeg comes about three seconds in, when the Documentary Channel is credited as a producer. If this is a documentary, well, words like “reality” have lost all meaning.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that – and not that anyone would come away from My Winnipeg thinking that Maddin has given us a tour of an actual city. This is, as the title insists, Maddin’s Winnipeg – a fuzzy, anachronistic dreamscape distinguished by its impossible geography, frantic sexual confusion and buried family secrets.
I am not a fan of Maddin’s signature technique, which apes the form and function of the silent movies he so fetishizes to the extent that his films are virtually indistinguishable from them. No, you can’t mistake his work for anyone else’s, but he’s so deeply buried in his own aesthetic amber that he no longer seems to feel the need to try anything different.
As Andrew Tracy put it in a recent essay for the online magazine Reverse Shot, Maddin’s films are “pitched solely in the key of twee.” And twee is the watchword of My Winnipeg, the latest of Maddin’s personal fantasias to revolve around the hazy memories of a character named “Guy Maddin.”
He’s played here by Darcy Fehr as a somnolent train passenger whose life flashes before his eyes as he tries to escape the city limits, while the real Maddin supplies the film’s feverish narration on the soundtrack. (He’ll do the same in the flesh for a live performance tonight at the Royal Cinema.)
As was the case in Maddin’s last film, Brand Upon The Brain!, “Guy’s” memories are somehow rooted in the filmmaker’s beloved 1920s, when Winnipeg’s mayor recruited a psychic ballerina to dance a séance, an entire building was swallowed up by an underground lake and the seeds of many strange rituals were sown, some of which may or may not have involved members of his family.
It’s conceptually nifty and occasionally very clever – the work of a talented collage artist having a goof on his notoriously stodgy hometown. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d taken me on this tour several times before, with ever-diminishing returns.