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“The forks, the lap, the fur…”  

My Winnipeg is one of the profound works of historical malpractice, rewriting the modernist trajectory of that great, northern, wintry metropolis. The film’s glacial character, mirthful meanderings and essayistic form brought to my mind Carol Mavor’s Black and Blue and William Gass’s On Being Blue. Maddin’s deliriously florid narration aligns snugly with his opinionated, yet personal book of criticism and diary entries: From the Atelier Tovar, the University Press of Mississippi collection of his interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series), and even his sublime Instagram collages. 

Hypnagogic cross-fades joust with somnolent zooms, and snow, snow, glorious, infinitely descending snow flakes colonise the screen. Wagnerian, occult interludes tiptoe amid a Sirkian, mockumentarian circus. Its seediness and juicy homoeroticism would respectively make Fuller and Cocteau blush with admiration, while mind-bogglingly colliding with the purity of Dreyer at his most spiritual. The film’s literary ardour anticipates what I believe to be Maddin’s masterpiece, The Green Fog (co-directed with Evan & Galen Johnson), which actualises Walter Benjamin’s ambition to construct a book consisting entirely of quotations. The screenwriting contribution of Canadian academic George Toles shouldn’t be underestimated. Beyond co-writing seven of Maddin’s features (and many shorts), Toles has penned a marvellously lyrical study of Paul Thomas Anderson’s oeuvre in the usually yawnsome psychoanalytical mode for the University of Illinois Press, that is thoroughly worth your time.

The best observers of American society are those who lurk around the outskirts of the system, gleefully interrogating it from the periphery: Sirk, Verhoeven, Von Trier and Maddin do a far better job at exposing the machinations of the U. S. of A, even when filming in their own backyards (Von Trier claims he is 60% American due to the utter deluge of American media in his, and most Western countries), than your repellant Spielberg’s and Lucas’s, whose successive features have buried cinema deeper and deeper in the odious feculence of capitalism. 

In perhaps stating the obvious, Maddin is a devout disciple of silent cinema, film noir and early American melodrama, and has psychotically gorged himself on, and transmuted these genres into an aberrant talisman that has David Lynch breaking through the walls. Feisty Ann Savage from 1945’s Detour, one of the very best and blackest ever noirs, plays Maddin’s mother to charming effect; her disinterestedness, then bewilderment, during an introductory outtake of Maddin blissfully barking a veritable shopping list of miscellaneous line deliveries, is one of the film’s warmest and most memorable scenes. My Winnipeg proved to be her final performance.

 

IMAGE: "Enter the spectral, glacial fever dream that is Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. 

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)

 
 
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