My Winnipeg Criterion Collection Blu-ray review
Winnipeg, Winnipeg, wonderful Winnipeg / Hail my town, hail my home / The world that moves round and round / Winnipeg, Winnipeg, wonderful Winnipeg / Where I belong and joys redound / In one long happy song
Bells clang and whistles blow as the train pulls out of the station. Narration describes the city as snowy, sleepy and in a perpetual state of winter. And then the narrator gets to the heart of it: “I must leave it. I must leave it. I must leave it now.”
And that is the plan. He tells of annual treasure hunt, which lasted for an entire day. The winner would get a one-way ticket out of town, but no winner in the history of the hunt had ever hopped on board the train, which says something about the city and those that occupy it.
The narrator, who is credited as Guy Maddin and played by Darcy Fehr (in his third collaboration with director Maddin, after 2003’s COWARDS BEND THE KNEE and THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD), reflects on his childhood and rents his former home. He then hires people to play his family, reenacting various memories, one of which involves a program starring a man who is constantly about to leap from a building (which perhaps suggests what leaving Winnipeg would really be like for a native).
There is much more to Winnipeg, which the narrator introduces: there was protest to ensure a beloved elm tree wasn’t cut down; there were a number of séances and occult meetings held in popular landmarks; there is bitterness over the Winnipeg Jets being sent to Phoenix. It’s questionable which specific details are actually true, even though MY WINNIPEG is presented as a documentary. (The tagline for the film is, “The truth is relative.”)
MY WINNIPEG has been described by its director as a “docu-fantasia,” meaning, it can be viewed simultaneously as a documentary and a fantasy. And that is exactly how it plays. The fundamental approach is that of a documentary, but there are moments that are purely surreal, namely the narrator’s staging of his childhood and the frozen horses. Maddin has made a trademark of toying with and embracing unexpected methods of modern filmmaking—in addition to MY WINNIPEG’s being a blend of two genres on opposite sides of the cinematic spectrum, THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD plays like a 1930s Hollywood film and 2006’s BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! is entirely silent.
And like the majority of Maddin’s films, MY WINNIPEG works. This is in part because of how genuine it is (despite its likely fabrications), how it dodges pretention and how it convinces the viewer that this particular story couldn’t have possibly been told any other way.
MY WINNIPEG is a unique film from a unique director. It is a curiosity for those unfamiliar with his works and often comes across as something that might play on a museum wall. But it should not be walked by or disregarded.
Video: 1.33:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “Supervised by director Guy Maddin and director of photography Jody Shapiro, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35 mm interpositive.”
MY WINNIPEG was far from being a crisp-looking film and so it shouldn’t be expected that this high-definition transfer would be without disturbances such as scratches and jitter. However, since they stem from the way the film was shot and the source, the transfer is a faithful one that stays true to both Maddin’s vision and Shapiro’s work.
Audio: English 2.0 Surround. “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”
The audio transfer doesn’t offer much, but then neither did the original soundtrack.
Cine-Essays: There are four cine-essays, all created by filmmaker Evan Johnson and director Guy Maddin in 2014. They are: Puberty (1:26), Colours (1:56), Elm (2:57) and Cold (3:47).
Guy Maddin and Robert Enright (52:12): Maddin and art critic Enright discuss the origins, production style, reception and more of MY WINNIPEG.
MY WINNIPEG Live in Toronto (9:00): A 2008 screening at the Royal Cinema is documented.
SPANKY: TO THE PIER AND BACK (3:55): Maddin’s 2008 short film “pays homage to a pug named Spanky.” Included is an introduction by Maddin.
SINCLAIR (4:04): Maddin’s 2010 short film, “excerpted from a film he created…for the opening of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Lightbox building.” Included is an introduction by Maddin.
ONLY DREAM THINGS (19:16): Maddin’s 2012 short film, made “as part of an installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.” Included is an introduction by Maddin.
THE HALL RUNNER (3:21): Maddin’s 2014 short film.
LOUIS RIEL FOR DINNER (2:52): Maddin’s 2014 short film.
Also include with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by critic Wayne Koestenbaum.