June 26, 2008

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My Winnipeg (NR)
Director Guy Maddin mixes bits of his biography with bits of history and trivia about his hometown of Winnipeg in My Winnipeg — and extra points for knowing which Canadian province the city’s in.

Actually, extra points for not thinking it was in Michigan. Like Omaha before Alexander Payne started making movies about it, Winnipeg just seems like one of those places that could easily serve as shorthand for squaresville. If you Google “Winnipeg” and skim its Wikipedia entry, you’ll see a list of well-known films made in Winnipeg wherein Winnipeg stands in for someplace else.

But not here. Here Maddin (who in the movie is actually played by Darcy Fehr) stares into Winnipeg’s icy face and asks why. Or rather, he stares into Winnipeg’s icy face and gives us some funny dramatizations about his family life and some even funnier historical tidbits — all delivered with a straight face — and he sews it all together with clips of people on trains and river imagery that all together I would call “David Lynchery.”

After about 15 minutes of “what the hell am I watching,” My Winnipeg with its self-consciousness and its nutty little Canadian sense of humor broke me down. How can you not love a movie with lines like “My mother, a force strong as all the trains of Manitoba” or “the Winnipegger is a citizen of the night, the Winnipeg night”? I’m not sure who I’d recommend the tales of a Winnipeg hockey arena and a downtown department store mixed with tales of family dysfunction to, but I guarantee you that if somebody made My Manchester with stories about Colonel Nutt or the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, all bars in a 20-mile radius would hold fabulous viewing parties.

My Winnipeg is a strange kicky little movie; its problem is that aside from serious film geeks, ex-Winnipeggers and personal friends of people who worked on the movie, I’m not quite sure who would watch if they didn’t have to. I suppose if your mindset is “I’d like something completely different from anything else I could possibly find in a local theater or on television” My Winnipeg is worth your $6.99. B

Not rated. Directed by Guy Maddin and written by Maddin and George Toles, My Winnipeg is an hour and 20 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by First Take IFC films. It is currently available on Comcast OnDemand.