Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Winnipeg



Written, directed, and narrated by Guy Maddin, My Winnipeg is a surreal portrait of Maddin’s beloved hometown that is part-documentary and part-fictional film. The film serves as a tribute to Maddin’s hometown along with some critique as he expounds on historical facts and legends about the beloved city. Starring Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage, Amy Stewart, Louis Negin, Brendan Cade, and Wes Cade. My Winnipeg is a fascinating yet mesmerizing film from Guy Maddin.

Guy Maddin (Darcy Fehr) is on a train sleeping and dreaming about his beloved Winnipeg as he recalls various memories and historical elements about the city. Maddin recalls memories of his childhood as his decides to re-enact his own memories with his mother (Ann Savage) along with a group of actors to play his siblings. Maddin also goes into details about legends and various stories that play out the city including strange séances and landmarks along with old places that once made Winnipeg joyful. He even dwells on the loss of a famous shopping mall that became a hockey arena while the old one that his father was apart of is now gone. Even as Maddin wonders who will take care of the city when he leaves.

The film is a loose tale of a man recalling his own childhood memories and life in the city that he was born and raised in that he still calls home. Yet with its mixture of memories and events presented through re-enactments and old footage through newsreels and personal home films. Maddin creates something that is truly spellbinding as he talks about the fork in Red River along with the home that he lived in that later is owned by someone else. During the film, he talks about various legends and exaggerations made while presenting Winnipeg itself as a city that remains very mysterious. For the re-enactments, he brought in actors and one of his collaborators in George Toles to write dialogue as a woman plays his mother.

The looseness of the script allows Maddin to create the film as something that is a mixture of fiction that is presented in a stylized tone reminiscent of 1920s/1930s silent films with a verite style for its documentary. While there’s few scenes that are presented in a modern-day fashion for its look of the new hockey arena and the old one that claims to have been born at. Maddin’s direction is truly mystifying in its presentation from the soft lenses he creates for close-ups to various shooting styles such as film-noir for a recreation of a TV show he used to watch. There is also a very personal element as through many of the film’s grainy yet home-movie look, there is something that is truly beautiful in this grainy world while he also has some silhouette cartoons for legends such as the frozen horses on a river. The overall work Maddin presents is truly stunning as he creates a film that is definitely one of a kind.

Cinematographer Jody Shapiro does an amazing job with the film‘s black-and-white photography for a large portion of the film as she brings a mixture of various film stock including Super 8 film to give it a homemade feel to it. Shaprio also allows the film to dwell into various styles of cinema such as German Expressionist and film-noir as the cinematography is truly a highlight of the film. Editor John Gurdebeke does a superb job with the editing to create a film that is very loose and free from its lack of traditional narrative by utilizing dissolves and jump-cuts for its unique presentation.

Production designer Rejean Labrie and art director Katharina Stieffenhofer do a fantastic job with the art direction such as the recreation of the Maddin home in its original building along with the train that the Maddin character rides in with cinematic backdrops outside of the train. Costume designer Meg McMillan does an excellent job with the costumes to recreate a period for some of the exaggerated legend scenes in the film along with the 1950s look of the Maddin family for its re-enactment.

Sound editors Steve Medeiros and Jane Tattersall do a great job with the sound work to capture the world that is Winnipeg in all of its areas and time periods including eerie silence of the dark streets during a snowy day. The animation by Andy Smentanka is wonderful for its silhouette look to re-create scenes such as riots and strange events that became legendary for the city of Winnipeg. The film’s soundtrack features a wide array of music from Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Wagner, Jason Staczek, the Bells, and the Swinging Strings, who perform a song about the city of Winnipeg, as the music plays up to its whimsical world.

The cast is truly another highlight of the film as it features appearances from Louis Nagel as the old mayor, Kate Yacula as a superhero Maddin dreams of, local hockey legends Lou Profeta and Fred Dunsmore as themselves, and Darcy Fehr as Guy Maddin who dreams up these strange memories and images. Other notable roles include Amy Stewart, Brendan Cade, and Wesley Cade as Maddin’s siblings during the 1950s while film legend Ann Savage is great as Maddin’s mother in a truly magnificent performance for the late actress.

My Winnipeg is an outstanding yet imaginative film from Guy Maddin. Audiences wanting to see a strange yet visually-captivating film about a city will no doubt be amazed by it despite its lack of a traditional narrative. Yet, in part of that lack of conventional storytelling, it’s also a film that is truly original as it’s carried wonderfully by Maddin’s narration as this film is among one of his best. In the end, My Winnipeg is a dazzling piece of art from the always whimsical Guy Maddin.

Guy Maddin Films: (Tales of the Gimli Hospital) - (Archangel) - (Careful) - (Twilight of the Ice Nymphs) - (Dracula, Pages from a Virgin’s Diary) - (Cowards Bend the Knee) - The Saddest Music in the World - (Brand Upon the Brain!)

© thevoid99 2011

2 comments:

Duke said...

I've heard such great things from Ebert about this film. Need to check it out.

Very good breakdown. Keep up the good work.

thevoid99 said...

Thanks Duke. I hope to see more films of Guy Maddin. I really like his stuff.