Guy Maddin's frozen reverie on Canada's "Gateway to the West" is barely defrosted by the warmth of the projector bulb. My Winnipeg opens with a bit of canned cheer in the form of the '50s booster ballad "Wonderful Winnipeg." Soon, however, the filmmaker is conjuring up his own "snowy, sleepy Winnipeg," a place of eternal winter and endless night. A movie of moody reflection, My Winnipeg is shot mainly in black and white, punctuated with near-subliminal intertitles, fake snow flurries, and the melancholy sounds of trains crossing the prairie. The filmmaker provides a turgid stream of consciousness, babbling on in an urgent, incantatory mock-travelogue style—with recurring shots of his stand-in (Darcy Fehr) asleep as he rides the midnight special. Convinced that he must leave the city "now!", Maddin instead finds himself back in childhood, living in a frame house fronted by his mother's beauty salon. Restaging his youth but making his own detours, Maddin transforms Winnipeg into a city of mystery. The world's smallest park is a single tree; the sole respite from the city's flatness is the landfill mountain known as Garbage Hill. Most arcane are the hockey rites—and also the most personal: Maddin claims to have been born in the locker room of the Winnipeg Maroons' now-demolished home. "Who is alive anymore?" he wonders as the movie wends toward closure. "It's so hard to remember."
Kate Yacula is among the Canadians under Maddins trance.
Runs at SIFF Cinema, Fri., June 27–Thurs., July 3. Not rated. 80 minutes.