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  My Winnipeg Hometown Blues
Year: 2007
Director: Guy Maddin
Stars: Ann Savage, Louis Negin, Amy Stewart, Darcy Fehr, Brendan Cade, Wesley Cade, Lou Profeta, Fred Dunsmore, Kate Yacula, Jacelyn Lobay, Eric Nipp, Jennifer Palichuk, Guy Maddin
Genre: WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Filmmaker Guy Maddin is on the train out of his home city of Winnipeg, and as he sits in the carriage while the train travels through the snowy landscape, he recalls his childhood and the story of the area. He and his fellow passengers are having trouble staying awake, and their heads loll around in time with the motion of the vehicle as they nudge against each other. Guy tells us that for quite a while in years past the city would hold a special "treasure hunt" day where the citizens had to find a precious object concealed in the streets somewhere: first prize was a ticket out of Winnipeg, and nobody ever took advantage of that offer...

Maddin received some of the best reviews of his career for this, an examination of his home town that starts out outlandish, yet appears to contain a kind of truth even if you don't wish to dig deeper into the facts as they are embellished by his roaming, black and white camera after you've seen it. Of course, even if your interest is not piqued you can appreciate that some of this may be tongue in cheek, but there was a genuine affection for the place that Maddin still called home, with all its freezing weather, bizarre history and what appears to be a winning eccentricity.

That eccentricity is very much Maddin's own, distinctive as ever and embracing as much of the offbeat as it possibly can, from the notable events in the populations' lives to the more personal experiences Maddin weaves into the narrative. Indeed, those personal aspects are the whole narrative as without them the film would be a list of odd stuff connected to the city of the title, with the "My" part implying that this could apply to any one of its citizens with very little tweaking of the facts. If they are facts, as it's hard to believe that the director's mother has appeared in a long running, daily soap opera about a man on a ledge threatening suicide for fifty years.

As depicted here, Winnipeg is some kind of a wonderland where the truly weird can and does happen, or at least it does in Maddin's imaginative telling of its tales, which on the surface seems matter-of-fact, but the more he goes on the greater the scepticism can take hold in the viewer. This is particularly the case when he recreates his home life growing up, where he recruits actors to play out his formative years, but gets his actual mother to play herself. Except she's not his mother, she's the Hollywood B movie actress Ann Savage, best known for Detour, which casts a different light on the proceedings.

That different light being nostalgic rather than shooting the whole production down in flames. There's a lot of the warm, wistful reminiscence about this film, as Maddin wallows in his ice hockey memories, claiming to have been born at the city's most celebrated stadium while a crucial match was being played, and waxing lyrical about the teams, which takes its own detour into a laughter-provoking homoerotic take on the national game. There's a lot that will have you chuckling here, with its accumulation of believe it or not tales about Winnipeg's 1919 cultural revolution, the time some horses were frozen up to their necks in the nearby lake all winter, or the highest incidence of sleepwalking in any part of the world. As with most Maddin films, even though it's not that long it possibly continues further than necessary, but it does have a charm all its own and has you wishing other directors could make such personal films this entertaining.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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