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My Winnipeg


Stars: Ann Savage, Darcy Fehr, Amy Stewart, Brendan Cade

Director: Guy Maddin

A very strange but often entertaining view by oddball director Maddin of his Canadian hometown and its chequered history. Maddin's sonorous, often acidly humorous commentary - he describes a ghastly centre built on the rubble of the old as 'like a zombie in a cheap new suit' - centres on a man (himself, probably) on a train, trying to escape a city that holds him in its snowy, frosty grip, but unable to stay awake.

Apparently, Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world and boasts the highest precentage of nocturnal sleepwalkers. Nothing stays there for a long time. 'Demolition,' remarks the narrator dryly, 'is one of our city's few growth industries.'

A seance/ballet sequence does go on too long, but the film perks up when Madden re-rents his childhood home for a month's filming and refurbishes it exactly the way it was. Animation sequences also help create memories of such events as the great bison stampede, or the bizarre fate of horses who, panicked by a fire, froze to death in an icy river, where their mummified heads became a tourist attraction.

Madden's boyhood, although his view of it is typically skewed, is affectionately recalled, from the time his mother turned their house into a hair salon and beauty parlour. 'At school,' he reminisces ruefully, 'I reeked of hair product.'

Veteran actress Ann Savage is just fine as Maddin's indomitable, all-seeing mother, in a film whose best images occasionally evoke memories of great documentaries from the 1930s. The nudity, oddly inserted from time to time, is trademark Maddin, but the film approaches mainstream viewability much more than most of his extensive, if obscure work to date.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Soda Pictures. Black and white with colour sequences.
80 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Jun 2008