At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

MY WINNIPEG

By • Apr 8th, 2015 •

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Although filmmakers like Martin Scorcese, Christopher Nolan, and Quentin Tarantino champion film over digital, its really directors like Guy Maddin who use the medium of 35mm film the most effectively and creatively. Maddin replicates the look of vintage black-and-white footage scarily well, to the extent that some portions of films like this one have moments that look truly indistinguishable from the real thing. Maddin’s approach is so radically different from anything else that there’s little to compare it to.

MY WINNIPEG, Maddin’s ninth feature, presents itself as part-autobiography, part-documentary, when there’s actually almost no truth to what is being presented. It deals with Maddin trying to escape from the sleepy Canadian providence of Winnipeg by, as he describes it, “filming his way out”. Maddin hires lookalikes of his siblings (his mother played by Ann Savage of DETOUR fame) and re-enacts key events from his childhood, which are interspersed with wild tales of Winnipeg’s past. There are seances, a day-long scavenger hunt, male beauty contests, and, in the film’s most talked-about scene, the frozen corpses of horses jutting out through an ice-covered lake.

With very few exceptions, the documentary footage in the film is staged or re-appropriated, and the autobiographical elements greatly exaggerated. The point is never the truth, but presenting a comically larger-than-life vision of life in a sleepy town. It’s absolutely stunning how many memorable and hilariously odd moments Maddin fits into just under 80 minutes.

Criterion has had a history with Guy Maddin, releasing his 2006 feature BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! a few years ago. This Blu-Ray package (also available on DVD) collects some of Maddin’s past shorts, as well as a plethora of interviews, which give a great deal of insight into the influences behind his work. The only gripe I have with the release is the lack of the live narrations that were done at various film festivals. At those screenings, the film would be shown without narration, and a live narrator would be present. Presumably for rights reasons, only excerpts from one of these live readings is available here.

For as strange and meandering as it is, MY WINNIPEG is hugely enjoyable and very clever. Anyone with a love for weird urban legends and misplaced nostalgia should definitely give it a watch. Hopefully, Criterion’s release of this and BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! is an indicator that more Maddin films are coming back to home video.

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