Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My Winnipeg : A Canadian Childhood


I held my own movie marathon the other day, and out of the trio (
Savage Grace, Diminished Capacity, My Winnipeg), My Winnipeg was the "no question about it" winner. No surprise it took the Best Canadian Film Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by Guy Maddin, who co-wrote it with George Toles, it's Maddin's personal portrait of his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Maddin grew up at 800 Ellis Street, above Lil's Beauty Shop. "I always wondered what effect growing up above a hair salon had on me," muses Maddin in the film.

Played by Darcy Fehr, also born in Winnipeg, the narration style of the movie is reminiscent of The Wonder Years, a hit TV show of the '80s. The words are much heavier and headier, however:

"We are always lost, befuddled."
"These old, dreamy addresses."
"At school I wreaked of hair product."
"Never underestimate the tenacity of a Winnipeg mother."
"A chunk of home. White. Block house."
"The dreams are sweet back home, but the waking is bitter, bitter, bitter."


The use of old and new footage in black & white is effective -- a few shots of color are interspersed at the end. Maddin longs for the haunts of his childhood, from the familiar department stores now bulldozed down to the Winnipeg Arena, where he spent many hours in the land of blades and ice.

And who knew that Winnipeg had ten times the sleepwalking rate of any other place in the world? Or that it was famous for its "man pageants" back in the day? My Winnipeg is heartwarming, hilarious, somber and soulful. I'll have to ask some Winnipeggers what they think about it.

Fishing in Winnipeg's Red River, with the Provencher Pedestrian Bridge in the background. Photo by Sue Frause.