“There’s something strange, something dreamy going on here, where pedestrians would rather use back lanes than front streets; where our homeless hide en masse on the rooftops of abandoned skyscrapers; and where a strange civic law requires you to admit for a night any former owner or resident of your current home.” [source>ligress]
My Winnipeg (2007) is a magnetic vision about home, memories and nostalgia of a city trapped in the middle of East and West coasts of the Canadian territory. Director Guy Maddin blurs Manitoba region mythology with urban rumours and his own perception of a distant childhood. A series of fascinating urban phenomena about how Winnipeggers experience, transform and pervert their own city.
“It is a documentary, but I just call it a docu-fantasia by way of flagging the fact that I am unapologetically aware of the fact that a third of it is just opinion or wishful thinking, and that a third of it is legend and folklore, and a third of it is cold, hard facts. But they are all emotional facts, or ecstatic facts. And then the episodes that are discussed in there – the historical episodes – are all literally true, as implausible as they seem.” [source>Vertigo Magazine]
There are two taxi companies in Winnipeg: the one which is exclusively allowed to drive citizens along back alleys, and the one which takes them in legitimate streets. But the vast network of unofficial streets does not appear in any map, despite being the site where real Winnipeg takes place. A grid of a secret city lies right on top of the streets…. and beyond them, their inhabitants swim in piled-up underground pools.
During 1926 cold winter, all the horses from the hippodrome fled away after the stables went on fire. Their only scape-way was the river. But they all froze before managing to reach the opposite side. Their sculptural heads with terror still in their eyes served as a leisure park that season. I wonder in which moment the following spring carried them out into the sea, without anyone noticing.
Featuring people stuck in repetitive patterns of behaviour, Maddin also depicts a popular soap opera TV series from the 1950s, Ledge-Man, where a mother tries to convince his son not to jump off the building. A collection of tales inside the actual tale of a whole city.
But we won’t know which Winnipeg is the real, the ideal or the disappointing one. Bizarre as they all may seem, once scaping Winnipeg, everyone dreams of going back.
[1-4> stills from My Winnipeg. horses frozen in Winnipeg river via kafka-on-the-shore. Ledge-Man; alleyways and taxi companies]