Review of 'My Winnipeg'

my_winnipeg.jpg “My Winnipeg” is a collage of life in the remote Canadian town of Winnipeg, Manitoba where (at least in the film) it appears to be perpetually winter. The narrator is, nominally, trying to leave the city but finds he has to understand his life there before he can free himself. We end up with a series of vignettes, both real and imaginary, of life in Winnipeg including a winter when horses escaping from a racetrack fire are eventually found frozen in the river with their heads sticking out (imaginary), childhood memories of national hockey team games with the Winnipeg Jets at their old home in the Winnipeg Arena - on whose destruction the narrator laments at length, and their new home in the middle of the city on which he heaps scorn (all real), and as a child watching a show called “Ledge Man” where every week a man threatens to jump from a ledge but is eventually talked from jumping by his mother (imaginary!). Often the images are just of randomly driving the white streets of downtown and residential areas.

It is hard to pin down what this black and white film is. As a mixture of both fantasy and fact it is hard to explain. Part documentary, part whimsy. For the most part “My Winnipeg” is an artistic expression of the director's impressions of the city and, indeed, much of the dialogue is poetic in nature with words or phrases repeated over and over again with the video shifting to match. At 80 minutes the film does tend to drag a bit, an impression that is not helped by frequent repetition of word and image. There is some disturbing imagery that appears slightly out of place - If intended to shock it seems to have no real reason to do so. Sexual in nature there is very little in the way of sex that is discussed in the film. In the end, there is no real conclusion and the film just leaves us with a set of Maddin's impression of life in the city but these are simply impressions as it is obvious that many of these impressions are merely fantasies.

Having lived in Winnipeg (see here for my information about the city) for many years I found a lot of the film incredibly funny (yes, the winter is very long but there is a summer…) and quite nostalgic. I can vouch for a lot of what he says as being true though a lot being un-rue but the subjectivity of experience is obviously something the director is exploring here. From a Winnipeg-ers perspective I can see the film is largely respectful and honest of life in the city but it is, definitely, leaning towards the negative side.

Disturbing and quite trippy, I would not suggest “My Winnipeg” for the feint of heart but if you are interested in this sort of somewhat “experimental” film or simply want to learn a bit about one of Canada's most remote cities, “My Winnipeg” is for you. A bit too disturbing for me.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-01-26

Directed by: Guy Maddin

Studio: Buffalo Gal Pictures

Year: 2007

Length: 80 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure