This latest film by Guy Maddin is classified as a documentary on Winnipeg, but it's about as much a documentary on Winnipeg as his BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! is a documentary on lighthouse painting. It bears what I now see as his patent style, which I eagerly embrace. Again he borrows aspects of silent film and minimalist Foley work to conjure the sense of pale memory filtered through dream. The only time it actually resembles a real documentary is when he intermittently and briefly resorts to amateur-millimeter color film. In a couple of places, he segues into garish and broad animation that dovetails with his style by resembling some recovered grade-school educational film. To provide the missing pieces of his faux journal, he hired actors to portray the Maddin family, in their full panoply of dysfunction. How much is true, only Maddin can say. He has the uncanny ability to jab the interstitial material between memories, hitting it just close enough so that you get a vivid sense of something concrete beneath an abstract rendering, sometimes to comic effect. It all comes together brilliantly, if you're inclined toward this sort of thing. Maddin is the modern master of psychological comedy, covering similar territory staked by early Woody Allen, but with a surreal touch, and sans the kvetching.
The extra features include three very short Maddin films and a separate short of some of that surreal bygone animation (which, by the way, was NOT created by Maddin). As for the film itself, at bottom, I suppose some of this stuff COULD be real, in some skeletal way. We know there's a city called Winnipeg; so that much is definitely true. However, it's doubtful that people took strolls on the frozen river, among horse heads protruding through, frozen in anguish.