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My Winnipeg (2007)

mywinnipeg.jpgI couldn’t persuade any of my friends to come out to see My Winnipeg at the Tinseltown on a Wednesday night, so I saw by myself, in a theatre occupied by just me and a couple few rows behind me. It’s okay, though — if ever there was a movie meant to wash over you alone in the dark of an empty theatre, it’s this one. I don’t know if it’s the kind of movie I would go around recommending to people, but I’m pretty damn glad I saw it.

My Winnipeg is a dreamlike pseudo-documentary by Winnipeg’s own Guy Maddin, who narrates in a kind of prairie-beatnik drawl tinged with regret and dry humour. Using a pastiche of silent and modern film techniques, he tells real and imagined stories about a forgotten city of dark and cold, with lakes full of frozen horses and underground rivers feeding public swimming pools. Maddin’s Winnipeg is a land of sleepwalkers and corrupt male beauty pageants and demolished hockey stadiums. In the film’s funniest, cleverest conceit, he hires actors to portray his family in re-enactments of scenes from his childhood, complete with the exhumed corpse of his father under the living room rug.

I loved My Winnipeg. I’m sure no small part of this comes from, you know, actually being born there, and being raised on the Canadian prairie. Not to mention I’m a fan of both the pure cinema of the silent era and DIY indie-cinema, which seem to serve as the jumping-off points for Maddin’s own “anti-progressivist” style. And I also love the imaginative potential of the banal (something shared with Spaced, Flight of the Conchords and Twitch City). But while I enjoyed movies like Saddest Music in the World and Careful quite a bit, I sometimes found Maddin’s visual style more appealing than his storytelling. Here, though, Maddin’s deadpan visual nostalgia and tongue-in-cheek myth-making come together to make something I found pretty awesome, something that tapped into the latent flatland whistfulness that has been rolling around in the corner of my skull since I left the prairies.