Another Maddin masterpiece… I loved it. Slow start as he dreamily navigates his home town, telling stories, showing off landmarks, talking of snow and sleepwalkers. Trying to escape, he decides to film his way out, rents his old house and hires actors to play his family, except for his real mother (ha, “really” 1940’s noir queen Ann Savage) and of course, Maddin himself (ha again, really Darcy Fehr of Cowards Bend the Knee). So the premise is a lie, and the real-life actors are a lie, and yet he got this to be classified a documentary – I love it!
The parts about Maddin’s childhood are as veiled as usual – there’s the hair salon and siblings and pet dog, and some could-be-true anecdotes about straightening the hall rug and a fear of birds, but we also get his mother’s unlikely starring role in long-running TV drama “Ledge Man”. And there’s the traditional dead father, this time represented by a mound of earth under the living room rug, which the brothers use as a sort of beanbag headrest when watching TV. When Guy leaves home, things become sadder and more personal, showing city landmarks destroyed to build corporate malls, discussing the demise of the local hockey team and eventually the stadium. Very wonderful final segment imagines a character called Citizen Girl, representing the proud past of Winnipeg, who turns back time and resurrects the city’s history – as moving as anything in Guy’s filmography so far.
This is being called Maddin’s most accessible work. I guess the plot is more straightforward than most, and there’s less incest and horror than in my own starter pic Careful, but I’d still give that title to Saddest Music… it’s got stars and songs and an engrossing story and it’s right hilarious.