Friday, 3 February 2017

O Canada! Blogathon 2017 -- "My Winnipeg," Part 1

Winnipeg, Winnipeg, wonderful Winnipeg!
Where I belong and joys redound
In one long, happy song. 
Here are friends and kindly faces,
Folks I'm glad to know.
It's no Eden that you would seek,
Yet it's home, sweet home to me.

Independent Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and (until recently) lived his entire life there. Now, Winnipeg was also my stomping grounds for 22 years, from my university days until middle age when I moved to Edmonton. So I understand very well the "love/hate relationship" that all Winnipeggers (and I mean ALL) have with that great prairie city.

When the Documentary Channel commissioned Maddin to make this 2007 film about his hometown, the producer reportedly said, "Don't give me the frozen hellhole everyone knows that Winnipeg is."

So you can predict, of course, a central theme of Maddin's masterpiece.



Filmed in Maddin's signature black-and-white palette, with lots of shaky or blurry handheld DIY-looking shots, plus a crazy mix of historical film footage and surrealist drama, Maddin calls My Winnipeg a "docu-fantasia" based on "personal history, civic tragedy, and mystical hypothesizing." The New York Times accurately noted that the film "skates along an icy edge between dreams and lucidity, fact and fiction, cinema and psychotherapy." It is one of this country's truly great mockumentaries, a style at which Canadian filmmakers excel in particular. Mockumentaries suit our dry, subtle and satirical sense of humour.

While the film's universally-applicable meditations on the "heinous power of family and city" can, of course, be enjoyed by all viewers no matter where they live, any Winnipegger who watches this film gets a special thrill. [Note: all the following references are viewable in the trailer]

We can spot the familiar thoroughfares like Portage and Main, Ellice Avenue and the World War I era back alleys of the Exchange District. We recognize the fleeting glimpses of instantly identifiable locations, like the University of Winnipeg, the North End rail yards and the old Winnipeg Arena.

We are aware of which true (if often mundane) historical facts are sprinkled throughout the narrative. We catch the iconic Winnipeg cultural references mixed together with their crazy alter egos, like the old Paddlewheel Restaurant in the downtown Hudson's Bay Company flagship store, where the salacious "Manitoba Man Pageants" are staged. Or the plaid skirts of the school uniform worn at Winnipeg's exclusive, private girls' school, Balmoral Hall . . . I mean, the "Academy of Ultravixens."

These receive our special belly laughs.

Tomorrow's Post: Those frozen horse heads!

23 comments:

Mark said...

I have talked to several people from Winnipeg and there does seem to be something about the place. It's a frozen hellhole, but it's their frozen hellhole.

The Happy Whisk said...

I enjoyed that trailer, how it was shot, his voice and the music. It all worked well together. And those frozen horse heads???? I will be back to learn more.

mxtodis123 said...

I enjoyed this. I love learning about your homeland.
Mary

Davoh said...

um, dunno about you peculiar lot "up North" .. but Best Wishes, anyhoo.

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

To be fair to my home town and after reading the comments, we are not perpetually frozen. We do thaw out around April and do not freeze again until November - December. But it certainly is a love/hate relationship. I particularly like May. No mosquitoes yet. :)

Marie Smith said...

Those from Winnipeg I've met have been loved it, the cold, not so much.

e said...

"When we got to Winnipeg/ I checked in to school/ I wore white bucs on my feet/ when I learned the golden rule/ The punches came fast and hard/ lying on my back in the school yard/ Don't be denied..."

Tell me that the song features somewhere in that mockumentary!

Birdie said...

My husband and I went through Winnipeg in October and it was fucking cold. Not just cold. Fucking cold. I would die there. It would be a death from self-pity but a death just the same.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ e -- Alas, no.

@ Birdie -- LOL! "Death by self-pity" is a standard entry on every Winnipeg coroner's form, along with "Death from the Fucking Cold."

Janie Junebug said...

Did you attend the Academy of Ultravixens? I've never been to Winnipeg and most likely will never get there. I'm in love with all things Canadian, though, especially since the troublemaker-in-chief was elected.

Love,
Janie

Magaly Guerrero said...

The NYT quote gave me a belly full of giggles. Are you sure they were talking about Winnipeg? Seriously, with all the "dreams and lucidity" and "fact and fiction" drama these days, one can't be sure...

Guillaume said...

I have heard Winnipeg has a hockey team again. Who would have thought? (Run for cover)

Missy George said...

Interesting and informative..Thanks for sharing...

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Janie Junebug -- Oh no, the Academy of Ultravixens was way out of my league!

bj said...

This is all so interesting. Never been there but have heard it can sure get cold.
Thanks so much for the birthday wishes for our son...and his health is very good..the surgery took care of all the cancer..no other treatment needed. He goes every 6 months to be checked and that sure makes his old mama feel better. He turned 53 today...my little boy...

DEZMOND said...

hooray for Winnipeg!

Silver Screenings said...

Cannot believe I haven't seen this film, despite all the great things I've read about it (including your fab review).

Thanks for joining the blogathon and for putting this film on my radar. The blogathon would not be complete without a loving tribute to Winnipeg.

Miss Val's Creations said...

I love this guy's film style. Gripping and fun!

Fearsome Beard said...

Way excellent. Way.

Magic Love Crow said...

Yeh Winnipeg!! I have to watch this film!! Great post Debra! By the way, I hope you're feeling better! I'm so sorry you've been so sick!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

This is an amazing film. I'd never heard of it before! I do have tremendous respect for my western Canucks who live through and survive the cold in Winnipeg! We are wimpy in comparison :)

Cheryl said...

I, too enjoyed the video. Perhaps my appreciation for dry subtle, satirical sense of humors and Canadians that possess those traits would totally work in my favor of liking his mockumentary.

I wonder if most people have a love/hate view of their home town? Although a place that is referred to as a frozen hell hole might be weighing in a little heavier on the hate side.

Fundy Blue said...

Great trailer, Debra! LOL! My only memory of Winnipeg is of a Girl Guide Conference there in March 1962 ~ and that was of how ~!@#$% cold it was at Portage and Main! Have a good one!