Film review: My Winnipeg

Published: Thursday, Sept. 11 2008 3:14 p.m. MDT

It would be interesting to know exactly which "factoids" in "My Winnipeg" are true and which ones are not.

After all, this bizarre pseudo-documentary about filmmaker Guy Maddin's Canadian hometown presents information about Winnipeg that's a little hard to believe.

That includes a tidbit about an infamous, World War II-era "prank," in which actors pretended to be an invading Nazi army — as part of a scheme to help sell war bonds. Did that really happen?

Then there's a surprisingly bittersweet sequence in which Maddin and cinematographer Jody Shapiro show an aging Winnipeg hockey arena being torn down. That one can be verified.

So given its unusual blend of fact and fiction, the film is a real head-scratcher. Like most — if not all — of Maddin's films, it's as bewildering as it is visually arresting. And yes, that means it's an acquired taste.

"My Winnipeg" was shot in grainy black and white, save for the aforementioned hockey arena footage. In the film, Maddin claims to be purging painful memories about his life in the often-icy Winnipeg and states that he's trying to make a break with the past.

To do that, he re-enacts parts of his childhood, using veteran B-movie actress Ann Savage to play his mother and other actors to play himself and his siblings. (To confuse matters even more, narrator Maddin pretends that Savage really is his mother here, though we know that's not really the case.)

Maddin evens shows a fictional train journey away from the city, with actor Darcy Fehr portraying him. (The filmmaker still speaks for himself here.)

Style and looks wise, this film may remind some of the works of Maddin's American compatriot David Lynch. That includes silent-film "homages" such as "title cards" to break the movie into "chapters."

"My Winnipeg" is not rated but would probably receive an R for suggested language and references, male and partial female nudity, some violent imagery (rioting suppression), brief sexual imagery, and derogatory language and slurs. Running time: 80 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com