Tribeca 08 – Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg

One of the highlights at this year's festival

Ever been to Winnipeg? I haven’t. And you still may not want to go after watching Guy Maddin’s personal visual essay on the city he grew up in.

But, so far at this year’s Tribeca My Winnipeg is by far the most original.

Darcy Fehr plays a young Guy Maddin as he pulls out of a snowy Winnipeg, his childhood hometown, on the nighttime train. For that seems to be the director’s great urge: escape Winnipeg. Maddin plunges headfirst into Winnipeg’s history and meshes with it personal anecdotes and recurring appearances by his own mother. He wittily narrates a historic survey of Winnipeg but it is so much more than just his.

A documentary by Guy Maddin can’t be just a straight documentary–the genre is way too restraining for Maddin. This is a funny, strange mish-mash of history channel-like stock footage and fantasyland stuff that rips from Orson Wells and Maddin’s own The Saddest Music in the World (2003).

Grainy black and white footage interspersed with old hollywood noir films scores and reenactements of scenes of family life unspool with Twilight Zone gusto. But why stop here? Hitchcock’s The Birds make an appearance during one such reenactement. Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Maddin repeats like a mantra, but it sounds more like a lament. For research the Canadian filmmaker sounds like he could have listened to the the entire Orson Welles broadcasts of War of the Worlds.

The laughs in the screening room today were loud and boisterous. Intertitles of rhetorical questions Maddins poses help pace the sheer wealth of visual imagery. Maddin’s ruminations are self-aware, of course, but his wit and intelligence are unflailing. Indeed, as soon as My Winnipeg shows up at a theatre near you, run, don’t walk, to watch it.