My Winnipeg – The Criterion Collection #741 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 25, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“My Winnipeg” is one of the key highlights of Guy Maddin’s oeuvre. Creative, unique, intelligent and also magnificent, “My Winnipeg” is highly recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2008 Paddlewheel Productions, Inc. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: My Winnipeg – The Criterion Collection #741
YEAR OF FILM: 2007
DURATION: 80 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, English Stereo, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: IFC Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015
Directed by Guy Maddin
Written by Guy Maddin, George Toles (Dialogue Writer)
Executive Producer: John Hart, Ted Hope
Produced by Christine Vachon, Lauren Zalaznick
Music by Ed Tomney
Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy
Edited by James Lyons
Casting by Jakki Fink
Art Direction by Anthony Stabley
Set Decoration by Mary E. Gullickson
Costume Design by Nancy Steiner
Ann Savage as Mother
Louis Negin as Mayor Cornish
Amy Stewart as Janet Maddin
Darcy Fehr as Guy Maddin
Brendan Cade as Cameron Maddin
Wesley Cade as Ross Maddin
The geographical dead center of North America and the beloved birthplace of Guy Maddin, Winnipeg is the frosty and mysterious star of Maddin’s “docu-fantasia.” A work of memory and imagination, the film burrows into what the director calls “the heart of the heart” of the continent, conjuring a city as delightful as it is fearsome, populated by sleepwalkers and hockey aficionados. Take part in Winnipeg’s epic annual scavenger hunt! Pay your respects to the racehorses forever frozen in the river! Help judge the yearly Golden Boy pageant! What is real and what is fantasy is left up to the viewer to sort out in Maddin’s hypnotic, expertly conceived paean to that wonderful and terrifying place known as My Hometown.
From filmmaker Guy Maddin (“The Saddest Music in the World”, “The Heart of the World”, “Night Mayor”) comes his 2007 award-winning mockumentary titled “My Winnipeg”.
Often called a surrealist mockumentary about Maddin’s hometown of Winnipeg, in 2007, it was featured in various film critic’s top ten films of 2008.
And now, “My Winnipeg” has received the Blu-ray treatment from the Criterion Collection!
“My Winnipeg” is created like a documentary featuring archival and re-enacted film footage which is narrated by a character named Guy Maddin (portrayed by Darcy Fehr, dialogue voiced by George Toles) who desperately wants to leave Winnipeg. So, in order to do that, Maddin decides to create a film as the way to leave the city and film his way out. But can he truly escape?
The first part focuses on the Canadian Pacific Railway and why Winnipeggers never leave Winnipeg and how the city is the sleepwalking capital of the world.
Maddin then goes to find his childhood home and rents the location. He hires actors to play his family in order to recreate scenes from his childhood memories, with the exception of including his father and also himself. He remembers how his mother over-reacted to Janet Maddin hitting a deer with her car and believes that she was covering up a sexual encounter.
And Maddin goes into the “What if’s?” of Winnipeg and recounts the history of Winnipeg. From the Wolseley strike of 1957 in which mothers fought against the traffic department of cutting down a giant elm in the center of Wolseley Avenue and Greenwood St. The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s visit to the area in 1923, If Day featuring a simulated Nazi German invasion and occupation of Winnipeg in 1942 during World War II and the destruction of various Winnipeg architectural landmarks but how the salvation of Winnipeg was the “Black Tuesdays”, a fictional team of hockey heroes in their ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
But as Maddin tries to continue on his film about Winnipeg, will it work in his plans to escape the city?
“My Winnipeg – The Criterion Collection #741” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to remind everyone that because it is a mockumentary, you have two types of footage, archival and also modern digital footage which looks fantastic in HD. For the most part, “My Winnipeg” looks amazing when modern footage is featured and of course, other footage altered to look as if it was shot in Winnipeg sometime within the last century. The film is well-contrast with grays and whites being bold, black levels being nice and deep. The film features clever editing in order to create an old-time feel.
According to the Criterion Collection, “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.”
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio soundtrack, “My Winnipeg – The Criterion Collection #741” is presented in English 2.0 Surround Stereo. Dialogue narration and musicals core are clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.
According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital master files. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”
Subtitles are in English SDH.
“My Winnipeg – The Criterion Collection #741” comes with the following special features:
- CINE-ESSAYS – Cine-essays on various Winnipegiana created by filmmaker Evan Johnson and director Guy Madden in 2014 on “Puberty”, “Colours”, “Elms” and “Cold”.
- Guy Maddin and Robert Enright – (52:12) A conversation between Guy Maddin and art critic Robert Enright.
- “My Winnipeg” Live in Toronto – (9:01) A 2008 screening of “My Winnipeg” at the Royal Cinema in Toronto. Featuring live narration by director Guy Maddin.
- Spanky: To the Pier and Back (2008) – (3:56) A short film paying homage to a pug named Spanky. Featuring a new introduction by Guy Maddin (1:46).
- Sinclair (2010) – (4:05) A film created by Guy Maddin in 2010 which opened at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Lightbox building. Featuring a new introduction by Guy Maddin (2:53).
- Only Dream Things (2012) – (19:16) A short created as part of an installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for its Centennial in 2012. Featuring a new introduction by Guy Maddin (2:06).
- The Hall Runner (2014) – (3:22) A 2014 short narrated by Guy Maddin.
- Louis Riel for Dinner (2014) – (2:52) A 2014 animated short narrated by Guy Maddin.
- Trailer – (2:10) The original theatrical trailer for “My Winnipeg”.
“My Winnipeg – The Criterion Collection #741” comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “My Guy’s Winnipeg” by Wayne Koestenbaum.
You can’t help but watch “My Winnipeg” and feel admiration for what Guy Maddin was able to create.
The imaginative mockumentary is creative, intelligent and entertaining and he takes on the city of Winnipeg, his hometown.
Taking real life situations that happened in Winnipeg’s history, combining it archived footage, modern re-enactments, imagination based on memories, you can’t helpt but be amazed with what Maddin was able to create.
It’s also one of the few films that makes you wonder if what Maddin had in the film really happened?
And sure enough, some of the historical situations which included the Wolsely Strike of 1957 and the Strike of 1919 are true. But then there are other things in this film that makes you wonder how much is imaginative and what is real, such as the horses who were trying to flee a fire, going into a frozen river where they all died as they were frozen to the ice and only their frozen heads above water, were sticking out.
Were some of the streets in Winnipeg really named after prostitutes? Is there really a law against throwing away old signs?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But that is what is amazing about “My Winnipeg” as Guy Maddin was able to create almost a Bizarro world of Winnipeg and as much as it is a place that the character wants to leave, there is too much of Winnipeg that makes a person want to stay and continue to call it home.
I can understand as I grew up in a small town, dreaming to escape it forever and live in a metropolitan city. But while I was able to escape, I somehow found myself back into the area. And for decades, when describing to people of the hometown I grew up in, somehow it ranged from a mix of Twin Peaks to the most desolate part on Earth, but yet, in reality, the place is anything but that.
But growing up in a place that has had so much history, you can’t help but have fun and recreate one’s memories, may it be in your mind, or in Guy Maddin’s case, into a film.
And that is what makes “My Winnipeg” a true work of art. A creative, unique film which combines classic editing devices that are reminiscent of the silent era and narration that feels poetic and intelligent. And while this film may be different and non-banal, those who appreciate artistic creations in cinema, will no doubt appreciate Guy Maddin’s “My Winnipeg” as a work of art.
And as the Criterion Collection release is magnificent when it comes to presenting the film in HD, the film looks and sounds magnificent on Blu-ray and there are a good number of special features included, that Guy Maddin fans will find the various cine-essays and interviews to be enlightening and engaging.
Overall, “My Winnipeg” is one of the key highlights of Guy Maddin’s oeuvre. Creative, unique, intelligent and also magnificent, “My Winnipeg” is highly recommended!
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