music friday
geezer cinema: film fatales #121: shiva baby (emma seligman, 2020)

my winnipeg (guy maddin, 2007)

This is the second film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 7th annual challenge, and my third time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", and last year's at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21"). Week 2 is called "Northern Exposure: Guy Maddin Week":

Canada's own Guy Maddin offers up a unique lens in which to view life throughout all of his films. If nothing else, you're sure to see something wholly unique this week.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by Guy Maddin.

This film is my introduction to Guy Maddin, who is one of the most idiosyncratic of directors. My Winnipeg is an odd movie, hard to describe, and apparently it is very much like many of Maddin's films. Sometimes a filmmaker will create something so insular, its meanings are clear only to the people who made the movie. That's not the case with My Winnipeg. You always know what is going on in an individual scene, it's just that as the film progresses, you begin to doubt what you think you know, gradually realizing that this documentary is in fact an extremely subjective memoir of Maddin's home town.

And then it becomes clear that "subjective" doesn't really get it. Maddin is inventing things out of icicles, and nothing he shows us can be trusted. Which doesn't mean the film is aimless. In fact, you could argue that Maddin's inventions get closer to "his Winnipeg" than would a more straightforward, "realistic" representation of "facts".

Even if the results can be frustrating, Maddin is expert at giving us the movie he has in his head. He frequently uses techniques we think of as belonging to silent cinema, and he mixes authentic-looking recreations with ... well, actually, I'm not sure anything in My Winnipeg is presented as it happened. The film is narrated by Maddin, and Maddin is a character in what we see, but he's played by an actor, Darcy Fehr. His mother is played by the legendary Ann Savage (Detour). We learn that Winnipeg is the sleepwalking capital of the world. We learn about a television series, LedgeMan, with a character who is always threatening to jump off a ledge to his death. We learn about a general strike in 1919. This last actually happened ... I don't think any of the others ever happened except in Maddin's imagination.

It's all very intriguing, forcing us to confront the ways our memories override actual occurrences. #135 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century, and #603 on the TSPDT users poll of our favorite films.


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