Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Winnipeger's review of My Winnipeg

'My Winnipeg', a movie by a guy named Guy Maddin, was playing at the Polo Park Silver City. Having some free time I decided, what the hey, I'm from Winnipeg, lets see what kind of archival footage Mr Maddin would find. Lets see what sort of movie he has created. I mean, its playing at Polo Park Silver City, it can't be THAT bad. Then again, the Happening is playing there too. But probably had less seats filled. (oddly enough, as they have sympathetic plotlines)

My Winnipeg is about Guy Maddin. My Winnipeg is also about Guy Maddin's mother issues. My Winnipeg is also about this town of 700,000 people who would rather spend the 5-6 month long winters complaining about them rather than moving away. Winnipeg is basically a city of people with the type of personality that would theoretically be bloggers if they all had access to computers.

Interspersed with the storyline of Guy trying to recreate his life in order to find the means to escape the magnetic pull of this city, are little anecdotes about the city of Winnipeg. I was amazed to realise I knew of most if not all of them. Probably because I grew up in West Kildonan, close to the north end, where people tell these tales. I wonder where I picked them up though. Perhaps its just something that is ingrained in the Winnipeg consciousness. Still, none of them are lies. There are half truths, of course, but all of the anecdotes about Winnipeg that don't have anything to do with the Guy Maddin and his Mother storyline are generally true. Even the story of ledgeman, the only obviously fabricated story in the movie, is based on a personal truth of Guy Maddins life, embellished with memories of Winnipeg public access television, to create something that is .. not necessarily true, but full to the brim with truthiness.

I disagreed with his premise that the demise of Eatons and its replacement with the MTS Centre arena was a negative thing. Eatons was - in my opinion - a valueless fire trap. A lot of stuff involved in the Eatons destruction ended up being recycled anyways.

I was sad to see the Winnipeg Arena go, but while it was great for hockey games, it had outlived its purpose and was sitting on prime real estate. Also some guy ended up buying the urine trough, so its in some Winnipeger's basement right now. Again, there are a number of Winnipegers who purchased their seats from the Winnipeg Arena and have built small shrines to the Jets, and what could have been if it were not for the obviously insane Gary Bettman.

As a Winnipeger, I did like seeing the city on the screen. As a Winnipeger who sleepwalks around Winnipeg on occasion, having a movie that essentially does it for me is a time saver. It will probably sell big on DVD, and I encourage Guy Maddin, who I believe googles his own name obsessively, to throw in a lot of extras and commentaries. Do an "Ex-Mayors of Winnipeg" commentary or "people who have left Winnipeg" commentary or do a commentary with people who have escaped winnipeg or historians. Or do a "Selkirk insane asylum commentary" I love commentaries, if you haven't figured it out. It really is an opportunity to show off this insane city.

Guy Maddin does tell a lot of tall tales. He mentions Lorette as a hermaphrodite street. There are actually a fair amount of hermaphrodite streets in Winnipeg, not just Lorette. Sure we don't speak of them either, but if you do, you can't speak of one as if it were the only one. Of course, Winnipegs street system is confusing at the best of times. Though as a Winnipeger, I'm shocked to learn that other cities don't have a back lane layout as we do. Also, the Taxi thing is true, they are legally allowed only in the back lanes or the front lanes, but when have you ever seen a cab driver follow the rules of the road? They break it all the time these days.

The scary thing really is, Guy Maddin barely touched the tip of the iceberg on the strange and weird that Winnipeg embodies. He mentions a few anecdotes in passing, like If Day, the Arlington Bridge (ALL TRUE!), yet so much was probably left on the cutting room floor. Which is a shame because I think the seance scene went on a little too long. I get what he was going for, but it just got pedantic.

One thing I got out of the movie is, even though I disagree with the concept that winnipeg demolishes everything, is that there does seem to be a bit of a growth spurt in the city, as if all those years stuck frozen in the past are finally catching up to us and we're being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Possibly because of Global Warming. So I too am worried for the paddelwheel restaurant. At the same time, you cannot save old buildings without creating a positive environment for them to be reclaimed from the homeless.

The cast was superb as well. Ann Savage was superb as Guy's real.. I mean.. reel mother. But the real breakout star of the movie was Spanky the pug as Toby the chihuahua. Not only did he transcend breed typecasting, but he stole every scene of the movie he was in. A lesser director would have cast a chihuahua that looked like Spanky, but Guy Maddin knew acting talent when he saw it, and it paid off with Spanky. Hopefully Spanky gets a piece of the gross, not the net. Or at least an extra doggie treat. Also, there sure seemed to be a lot of dogs named Toby in this city. I wonder what the reason for that was.

Well would you look at that, I must have liked the movie because I can still think of things to say about it. But, in the end, aside from the nudity that could probably have been skipped over, I'd recommend it as an amusing film to see. I laughed at a few of Maddins jokes, I enjoyed the movie well enough. So I give this movie a rating of 9001 Vegetas out of a possible 9000.

Coming soon, an audio commentary on this blog post by Roger Ebert. Not really. But he did do an audio commentary on the movie Dark City.. and that city was totally based on Winnipeg.

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