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Movie Review: Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg

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"What if…what if I film my way out of here?"

I am the last person who would have anything good to say about an "art film", but My Winnipeg has succeed where a plethora of other movies have failed: I stayed interested and awake throughout the whole 80 minutes. This movie was filmed almost entirely in black and white. Some parts are grainy and moody so that they emulate a silent film, and add to the dreamlike qualities of the stories being told.

Calling the movie a "docu-fantasia", Guy Maddin ( who is frequently referred to as "the Canadian David Lynch") has created something that blends his family life and personal experiences with Canadian myths, local stories, and pure fantasy. Presented as a farewell to, or possibly even an escape from, his hometown, this film highlights the happiness and sometimes depressing personal history that is so well recounted at times it is hard to decipher where reality ends and the director's imagination begins. Some of the events depicted are in fact true, such as a tree and surrounding area that was named "the world's smallest park" and the homoerotic "Golden Boy Pageants". Maddin also recalls the unnecessary destruction of the Winnipeg arena where his father worked, in which he passionately tells us, "This building was my male parent, and everything male I picked up right here. I was even born here."

Film noir icon Ann Savage, who has been semi-retired for over fifty years, plays Maddin's stubborn and aggressive mother. In an interview with Premiere, Maddin says that he felt Ann Savage was the only person that could play his mother. She does a fantastic job of playing the controlling mother and for the most part makes it easy to dislike her character. The exception is a scene in which the children unleash a vicious parakeet on her for not getting out of bed and making them dinner, playing up a real life fear of birds that Maddin's mother had — a fear so intense that she had a one point in her life "smashed" a friend's pet bird to the floor because it landed on her shoulder. Maddin chuckles a little while narrating that part of the film.

The film is filled with countless euphemisms, while provocative and sometimes disturbing images flash on the screen or are subtly included in the rest of the background. With that being said, My Winnipeg is not without humor. Ledgeman, a fictional television series which Maddin's mother not only stars in but watches every day, is about a man who is upset by something on a daily basis and stands on a window ledge threatening to kill himself until his mother talks him back inside. Or the law that states all the homeless of Winnipeg must live on rooftops, in houses built from and old theme park that was destroyed by a buffalo stamped.

Even though the end of the film takes a sad turn, I found it to be overall very pleasant and emotional. It is no surprise that it won Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and it's one of the best movies I've seen this year.

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