A musical of sorts set in Winnipeg during the Great Depression, where a beer baroness organizes a contest to find the saddest music in the world. Musicians from around the world descend on the city to try and win the $25,000 prize.
Maria de Medeiros
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An amnesiac soldier, seeking his lost love, arrives in Archangel in northern Russia to help the townsfolk in their fight against the Bolsheviks, all quite unaware that the Great War ended three months ago.
Filmmaker Guy Maddin was born, raised and has always lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a town where he says everyone sleepwalks through life. He is trying to escape Winnipeg, but isn't sure how as he isn't sure what's kept him there in the first place. Perhaps his parent's month long 65th wedding anniversary celebration (despite his father being dead for some years) where he will reenact his childhood (with actors playing his family, except his mother who plays herself) in the old family home at 800 Ellis Avenue, which was above the family's hair salon business, will provide some answers. He recounts some civic events which have affected him and the life of Winnipegers: the 1919 general strike, the destruction of the Wolseley Elm in 1957, and the replacement of the iconic Eaton's building for the new hockey arena in favor of the old Winnipeg Arena. The latter has an especially close connection to him because of a family tie and the rich history of hockey in the city (discounting what he ... Written by
A haunting, humorous, and wholly wondrous dream of a documentary.
You could say that Guy Maddin makes films for the dreamers.
No other filmmaker alive puts so much effort into chipping away at the audience's sense of logic and running them through a grinder of their own twisted subconscious.
Beginning with his feature debut Tales from the Gimli Hospital in 1988, Maddin has remained furiously independent, the closest he's ever come to mainstream success being 2003's The Saddest Music in the World, which acted as a kind-of holy grail for film buffs and those obsessed with the days of cinema past. My Winnipeg may be the purest distillation of his unique aesthetic vision to date, almost surely because it's paradoxically the most personal and fantastical.
In essence, the film is a love-letter to Maddin's hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's a rueful love-letter though, because the film opens with the director hurriedly explaining that he needs to, has to leave forever. But he can't bring himself to do it. The solution? He'll hire actors to recreate scenes from his childhood, in a desperate attempt to attain some obscure kind of closure. In a fabulously inventive instance of casting, B-movie veteran Ann Savage (Edward G. Ulmer's Detour) plays his "real" mom playing herself.
Maddin augments the often hilarious film-within-a-film with bizarre "facts" about Winnipeg, like how it has the 10 times the sleepwalking rate of any other city or that Maddin himself was born in the locker room of the local hockey arena only to return three days later as a newborn to attend his first game. These half-truths attain a kind-of mythic status when combined with Maddin's haunting visuals that, like most of his filmography, harken back to the choppy, rapid-fire pace of German expressionism and the heart-on-sleeve emotion of '40s and '50s melodrama.
It shouldn't be surprising how funny My Winnipeg is, considering that Maddin might be the most unpretentious avant-garde filmmaker of all-time. His casual, matter-of-fact narration blends perfectly with the film's stark poetic images, making the many leaps of fancy that much more potent. When he describes a "secret" taxi company that operates only on Winnipeg's darkened back streets or ruminates on the beauty of "snow fossils" caused by plodding winter footsteps, it's downright impossible not to be overcome with feelings of deep nostalgia and wonder.
Maddin has made faux-biographical films before, 2006's Brand Upon the Brain the most notorious example, but with My Winnipeg, it feels like he's finally letting us in. Of course, it's just as likely that he's putting us on, and if he is, it's one of the most staggeringly beautiful con games ever committed to celluloid.
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