According to the new Guy Maddin film, My Winnipeg, his hometown has ten times more sleepwalkers than anywhere else in the world. That’s just one of the many details that emerge in this black and white love letter to the town he grew up in and still calls home. I don’t know if Winnipeg really is the sleepwalking capitol of the world, or how, exactly, one would set about to prove such a statistic, but facts aren’t the point of this lovingly crafted and beautiful film.
With the release of My Winnipeg Maddin has done two things. Firstly he’s crafted his most accessible film to date. His previous films—The Saddest Music in the World, a fantasy set in Winnipeg during the Great Depression, where a beer baroness organizes a contest to find the saddest song ever written and Brand Upon the Brain!, a silent movie about the power of memory to name a couple—usually set critic’s knees to knocking but have limited appeal outside of rep cinemas and art house theatres. My Winnipeg, while not exactly mainstream, could and should find a wider audience than any of his previous efforts.
Secondly he has stretched the definition of documentary. My Winnipeg’s deft mix of fact and fiction, bizarre recreations and Maddin’s memories make for a portrait of the town that has more to do with sense memory than information you’d find at the Winnipeg Tourist Bureau. While the facts may be in short supply what emerges is a fully rounded portrait of a unique city.
From horses encased in frozen river ice to the rides of the Happyland Amusement Park and the ultravixens of St. Mary’s Academy Maddin presents a deeply personal and heartfelt film that captures the spirit of Winnipeg.