So many non-traditional films that reach the art-house theater these days are self-described as “austere.” Apparently, this is a euphemism for somnolent or, in worst-case scenarios, suicide-inducing. Must a triple espresso/Redbull/wheatgrass/methamphetamine milk shake be a prerequisite for experiencing cinematic art?
Not in the case of My Winnipeg, the latest from Canadian auteur Guy Maddin (The Saddest Music in the World, Brand Upon the Brain!). A simple cup of earl grey tea will suffice to stay awake for the racing onslaught of imagery, sounds, flashed text and crescendoing monologue. My Winnipeg is its own espresso/Redbull/wheatgrass/methamphetamine milk shake.
Or, more accurately, it’s a fever dream and love-letter to Maddin’s hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The film’s tonality resides somewhere between amateurish film school senior project, gonzo memoir, Jorge Luis Borges short story, David Lynch movie, Michael Moore’s Roger and Me and an inspired rant by SFR’s Zane Fischer.
By kaleidoscopically layering archival footage—his own powdery black and white (now emblematic) silent-film-era-styled reenactments and cut out color animation whose bold silhouetted style is reminiscent of early Soviet agitprop or Kara Walker paintings—over alliteration-littered monologue, Maddin weaves Manitoba mythology and pseudo-history with his own highly (as in, this dude is high) subjective reminiscences of his childhood there. The result is a lyrical topography of Winnipeg’s landmarks—but also the landmarks of Maddin’s idiosyncratic id. Subjects touched on include the record-breaking rate of sleepwalking in Winnipeg, a myth about a lake of frozen horses, the history of Winnipeg hockey, the severity of Winnipeg winters and the harshness of Maddin’s domineering mother, played by noir/B-movie icon Ann Savage.
Even if My Winnipeg is refreshingly zesty fare for accustomed art film buffs, it’s not, by any stretch, a film to which one should bring the uninitiated. It is a work of cinematic experimentation that will appeal more to lovers of postmodern poetry or peyote vision quests than it will to fans of traditional movies. Which is to say, fans of Righteous Kill may want that milk shake after all.
Directed by Guy Maddin
Written by Guy Maddin and George Toles
With Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage, Amy Stewart, Louis Negin and Brendan Cade
80 min., NR