Customer Reviews: My Winnipeg
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on July 10, 2009
This is perhaps Maddin's most personal film, although I've seen pretty much all his output and it's rather hard to say what may be his personal life and what may be his twisted versions of it. In this, he returns to the city of Winnipeg, where he grew up, and hires actors to play his brothers & sisters, and returns to the apartment where they lived (although things are a bit awkward, since the current tenant refuses to move out). His real mother is there, and while his father is deceased, they pretend to have exhumed his body and reburied it in the living room..!? Anyway, the whole films is Maddin's odd reminiscences and it comes off as kind of a dreamy travelogue through the strange history and locations in Winnipeg. Most memorable is the great stable disaster when a fire caused horses to stampede and jump into the river, where they froze to death. We're treated to couples strolling amongst the frozen anguished horseheads, like it was a beautiful picnic spot or something.

I'm really surprised this hasn't been officially released in the US, though, I ordered mine from Amazon Canada many months ago & got it rather quickly for a decent price (about 19.75 USD).

5 out of 5, HIGHLY recommended.
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on December 19, 2008
This latest film by Guy Maddin is classified as a documentary on Winnipeg, but it's about as much a documentary on Winnipeg as his BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! is a documentary on lighthouse painting. It bears what I now see as his patent style, which I eagerly embrace. Again he borrows aspects of silent film and minimalist Foley work to conjure the sense of pale memory filtered through dream. The only time it actually resembles a real documentary is when he intermittently and briefly resorts to amateur-millimeter color film. In a couple of places, he segues into garish and broad animation that dovetails with his style by resembling some recovered grade-school educational film. To provide the missing pieces of his faux journal, he hired actors to portray the Maddin family, in their full panoply of dysfunction. How much is true, only Maddin can say. He has the uncanny ability to jab the interstitial material between memories, hitting it just close enough so that you get a vivid sense of something concrete beneath an abstract rendering, sometimes to comic effect. It all comes together brilliantly, if you're inclined toward this sort of thing. Maddin is the modern master of psychological comedy, covering similar territory staked by early Woody Allen, but with a surreal touch, and sans the kvetching.

The extra features include three very short Maddin films and a separate short of some of that surreal bygone animation (which, by the way, was NOT created by Maddin). As for the film itself, at bottom, I suppose some of this stuff COULD be real, in some skeletal way. We know there's a city called Winnipeg; so that much is definitely true. However, it's doubtful that people took strolls on the frozen river, among horse heads protruding through, frozen in anguish.
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on February 10, 2009
People who say they want something new usually don't mean it. But I suspect that this film is something new - which is why a lot of viewers won't "get it." I am not an expert on the output of Guy Maddin. I think "The Saddest Music in the World" is a masterpiece. "Brand Upon the Brain" let me down, but maybe I need a second viewing. "My Winnipeg" is both like and unlike both of them. It is a dream meditation upon Maddin's hometown. I suppose you could call it a docu-fantasy. I know I could never visit Guy Maddin's Winnipeg because it exists inside Guy Maddin's skull. But I enjoyed going there in this movie. It is certainly now realer for me than the real Winnipeg - which as far as it concerns me is a dot on a map with letters next to it. But if I ever go to Winnipeg (only if I get on the wrong flight)I will be convinced that it is a faulty attempt to realize Maddin's vision.
This movie pushes back the horizon, and you can't ask a movie to do more than that. Maybe it deserves five stars. I held back the final star just because there is nothing else to compare it to. It could be the first in a new genre of docu-fantasies - but probably only after it is rediscovered in twenty years, forty years, whatever. It isn't just ahead of the curve; it's off the graph paper altogether.
See it. Enjoy it. Or bitch about it afterwards. But don't pass it up.
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on June 25, 2014
I totally believe everything he told me about Winnipeg. I believe the snow, the sleepiness, the ectoplasm, the lost and benumbed waspiness of it, the wackadoodle mom, the, yeah, I buy it. I still don't want to go there but it's nice that it's dear to someone.
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on August 22, 2009
This engaging, very personal tribute from weird Canadian director Guy Maddin to his hometown of Winnipeg is very well done. Shot in black and white with his familiar style that reminds one of both silent cinema and the films of David Lynch, the plot has an alter ego of the director hire his elderly, domineering mother (actually b-movie starlet from the 1940s Ann Savage) and actors playing his siblings in order to relive his teenage years in the sixties, and sort of understand what makes him tick. The movie includes a lot of lore about Winnipeg that may be true in some cases and is almost certainly not true in other cases (the story about the frozen horses' heads in the river, for example, is hard for me to believe). This deadpan, funny tribute is most of all a nostalgic paean to his childhood, and a denunciation of modern capitalism mindless drive to change all things (Maddin recounts in a heartfelt way how they demolished a popular department store as well as his beloved ice hockey arena, for example). And because nostalgia of our childhood is something that most people can relate to, this makes this movie more accessible than other films of him. The film explains also the reason he never leave Winnipeg (in order to defend it, and not let others completely ruin it) as well as a lot of the obsessions in his other movies (for instance, his fascination with communist aesthetics seems rooted in the strong labor movement in his hometown).
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My Winnipeg utilizes old fashioned cinematic techniques and achieves a sense of instant freshness. Think of a documentary co-directed by Salvador Dali and David Lynch. My Winnipeg is a dreamlike account of a quirky city's quirky legends. The result is private, personal and utterly stunning. The director describes it as melodrama and he describes melodrama as uninhibited action. In this case the film represents a compilation of uninhibited memories--trenchant, sexy, sometimes bizarre and never dull. If there is a subtext it is that every quirky city is, ultimately, quirky in the same ways. It evokes memories in the mind of a child (or childlike director) and those memories are slightly tilted because the child draws conclusions and infers meaning in different ways than adults do. The result is something more funny, more honest and, sometimes more sad than the representations offered by traditional documentaries. The best way to describe My Winnipeg is to say that it includes elements from classic (particularly early) cinema and utilizes them to create something that feels absolutely new. It's not weird; it's wonderful.
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on January 14, 2014
My Winnipeg,Guy Maddin's docu-fantasia of his hometown Winnipeg is an autobiographical take on his childhood growing up in Winnipeg.Fascinating,it conjured up images of icy streets,the fur of the buffalo,the confluence of rivers,suggesting female thighs of an Amazonian mother figure,who also peers through the windows of a never-ending train journey,you need to take to get out of Winnipeg,but are in danger of doubling back on.Maddin's voice-over commentary ties all the images together,sometimes repeating phrases.There is a wild surrealistic anarchy of young Maddin and his two brothers ,sister,mother ,father and dog in still photos, home movies or re-enactments, centred on the family hairdressers,going to school with the smells of pomade,perfumes and hair-sprays,the vices of female vanities.On this base through archive,animation,still photos,B&W cinematography,a lively soundtrack,we go out into images of Winnipeg's past,ceremonies,sports like ice-skating, male beauty contests,the 3-tiered swimming baths,myths of Red Indians,horses frozen in ice,so their heads stick up permanently for lovers to sit and lean on.We get pedestrians rather using back lanes than front streets,where the homeless hide en masse on the roofs of abandoned skyscrapers. What is especially noticeable is the enticement to sleep-walk,to dream,not to wake up,because if you do you need to get out.

The film works because at 80 minutes long it doesn't overstay its welcome.It evokes mesmeric impressions recalling other film makers like Cocteau(La Belle et La Bete),Lars Von Trier(Europa), Bunuel/Dali,who work in dream imagery and draw on the unconscious.The dominant and fearsome Mrs Maddin(played by the original femme fatale,Ann Savage) is the pole of Maddin's childhood traumas and his inability to escape.There's enough material here for a dozen autobiographies,poems,novels.It's also very funny.Maddin has a phenomenal talent.Brilliant extras:career interview with Guy Maddin,'Winnipeg' animated short,My Winnipeg live in Toronto featurette,'Your Winnipeg' short film competition winner.
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My Winnipeg is not only Guy Maddin's most "mainstream" and least controversial in content film but also BY far his best. But be warned, read up on Maddin before you embark!

Guy Maddin = frequent short cuts, grainy images, manipulated lenses, black and white, title cards, sections where the actors talk, sections where we can't hear them, stilted/wooden acting (a la silent film). Expect journeys through the perverse, the nostalgic, unsettling nostalgic journeys through the perverse...

My Winnipeg is a pseudo-documentary about Maddin's own childhood. We glimpse memories which the viewer is completely unable to differentiate (do we need to?) as true or false or even constructed from other memories.

Maddin mixes bizarre "historical" events (a horse and ice flow that fosters a baby boom, the destruction of an ice hockey rink), with "memories" and fantastical stories about his youth (being born during a hockey game, etc), unusual activities (man pageants, seances carried out by various prostitutes with the spirit of the bison and Winnipeg's mayor), and weird "facts" about Winnipeg (the hidden alleys and hermaphroditic streets, collecting signs, Native American slums on the roof tops beneath the signs for old theme parks)....

Not only does Maddin pull all his visual tricks, but his story telling (entirely episodic in this case) is at the top of his game.

One might ask, who is Guy Maddin? He's one of those mysterious/elusive film directors (in product and personal life) in the vein of The Brothers Quay or Peter Greenaway. A Canadian who completely eschews Hollywood, retreats to dark corners, creating dark little gems, that prod and provoke, that explore occasionally taboo subjects with delightful glee and evident technical mastery. He's one who conjures ancient forms (in Guy Maddin's case, silent film) and manipulates those cinematic forms (no form is sacred!) in bizarre ways...

Previously, I've always found that Guy Maddin's style works best in short film format (The Heart of the World, Sombra Dolorsa, for example). However, My Winnipeg is perfect at 80 minutes. As always, I have some qualms about some of the content -- for example, "the lap" -- but, in NO WAY does it detract from the spectacle that unfolds. Absolutely stunning....

Guy Maddin wanders through that sign graveyard -- each signifies something...

each sign, a story

cobbled (and invented) memory.
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on December 15, 2009
This is a very entertaining look back at the filmmaker's snowy childhood in Winnipeg - the weather is enough to make you want to move to Florida but the film is quite enjoyable - one of his best.
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on February 8, 2010
It is a surreal look at a the director's image of Winnipeg. It is a strange mix of real and should-be-real stories about Winnipeg. It is a truly unique film
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