WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 3/6/2015

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Buzzard (2014): A temp worker pulls off pathetic, miniscule scams in this slacker satire.  Alexander Lowe of “We Got This Covered” says that it “finds a way to be an enjoyable movie in the weirdest way possible.Buzzard official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT (POST-PRODUCTION):

Cosmos (2015): returns to cinema after a 15-year absence with what he describes as a “metaphysical thriller noir.” It’s based on Witold Gombrowicz’s 1965 metanarrative crime novel of the same name. Zulawski is hoping to have it completed in time to screen at Cannes in May. Thanks to L. Rob Hubbard and (tie) for the tip. More info available at culture.pl.

NEW ON DVD:

Blood Car (2007): A vegetarian develops a car that runs on blood to combat high gas prices. Gory, independently-produced low-budget horror-comedy that took eight years to make it to DVD. Buy Blood Car.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Blacula (1972)/Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973): Blacula is a famously campy mix of blaxploitation and horror with a strange, half-serious tone and a surprising, almost Shakespearean performance by William Marshall. Scream is redundant, but adds cult icon Pam Grier to the mix. Buy Blacula/Scream, Blacula, Scream [Blu-ray].

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005): We prefer the original, but ‘s take on Roald Dahl’s Dante-esque candy factory has its supporters. It looks like the only difference between this “10th Anniversary” edition and Warner Home Video’s previous 2011 release is a 32 page booklet. Buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [10th Anniversary Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON SHOUT FACTORY TV:

Heart of Glass (1976): A small Bavarian town loses the secret to making its famous “Ruby Glass” when its master glassblower dies; the locals go insane trying to recover the secret. This movie is a little bit infamous because of a gimmick: most of the cast performs after having been hypnotized by director . Presented without commercial interruptions (though you have to sit through a spot before it starts). This is part of a small bonanza of Herzog films Shout! Factory owns the rights to; you may see more in the coming weeks and months. Watch Heart of Glass free on Shout Factory TV.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

FELLINI’S LA STRADA (1954)

Most film historians and critics credit La Strada (1954) as the first Felliniesque film. A major success which won the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Film, La Strada moved into the top tier of world film directors.

Like most romantic spiritual mythology, the appeal and accessibility of La Strada is found in its simplistic symbolism. Yet, the simplicity is also deceptive. My painting professor from art school once advised us that “obsession is often a good thing.” Here, we see the Fellini we have since come to know emerge with his obsessive themes of circuses and seasides in compositions populated by what would become archetypical figures. Fellini’s wife Giuletta Masina is cast as the eternally naïve gamin Gelsomina. Masina clearly patterned her character after . Fellini had used Masina, albeit briefly, in their first collaboration, The White Sheik (1952), and would extend that characterization in what is possibly their best work together, The Nights Of Cabiria (1957). Cast opposite Masina is her counterpart, Anthony Quinn, as the strongman Zampano. Quinn could be likened to Arthur Thalasso’s Zandow from Langdon’s The Strong Man (1927), or Eric Campbell’s “Goliath” from a number of ’s films. or even Pablo Picasso’s Minotaur. Rounding out the surrealistic trilogy is Richard Basehart’s high wire act as The Fool.

Zampano needs to replace his previous assistant Rosa and purchases the young, slow-witted Gelsomina from her mother. Zampano is cruel and brutish to his charge, but like Langdon’s waif, an inexplicable higher force seems to protecting her. Her pantomime act endears her to the circus crowd and she becomes the main draw.

Still from La Strada (1954)Although the relationship between Zampano and Gelsomina is abusive, somehow it works, according to the divine plan, until the serpent enters Eden. Being Fellini, the symbolism is not as Biblically simpleminded as that, and we are introduced to The Fool through pagan entertainment fused with the symbolism of religious fiesta. He appears elevated, adorned in cherub wings, but angels fall in myths, and on the ground the Fool  proves to be no angel. Although his concern for Gelsomina initially seems to be genuine, he is apt to manipulate her. The Fool’s relationship with Zampano is more clearly combative. He mercilessly taunts the strongman and Fellini injects a hint of a previous, cruel ménage a trois with Rosa (a substitute for Lilith, the apocryphal first wife of Adam).

Long-suffering, Gelsomina’s virtue is a channel to the enigmatic infinite. She mourns Zampano’s treatment of others instead of her own sufferings under his hand (sexual abuse is hinted at, but wisely avoided). Gelsomina’s status as a model of feminine submissiveness is revealingly emphasized in a convent vignette.

We are privy to Zampano’s lack of self-awareness and empathy that stems from his own past abuse. It is not his continuance of the cycle, but abandonment of Gelsomina, which finally severs her allegiance to him. The gripping, catastrophic finale echoed Tyrone Power’s shattered geek in Nightmare Alley (1947).

The Marxists, among others, saw Fellini’s break from neorealism here as a betrayal and, despite all the accolades gifted to La Strada, the film and its creator provoked a sea of controversy. Like Chaplin, Fellini celebrates the derelict. To the subscribers of ideological pragmatism in art, the ultimate blasphemy was Fellini’s portrayal of post-war Italy filtered through the dual lenses of naturalism and fantastic parable. The director’s legion of early admirers would brand him nothing less than a heretic after his later forays into opulent surrealism.

Nino Rota’s haunting score and Otello Martelli’s ethereal, nuanced cinematography add considerably to La Strada‘s seductive quality. Rota’s theme music proved to be a resounding popular success on European radio for decades following.

 helped finance the film’s restoration and introduces a Criterion Collection release that predictably is loaded with a wealth of extras. Among the supplements is an audio essay by film scholar Peter Bondanella, the documentary Federico Fellini’s Autobiography (which originally played on Italian television), and a second, charming documentary focusing on Masina and her off-screen, on-screen collaboration with Fellini.

194. THE COOK THE THIEF HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (1989)

“Painters hate having to explain what their work is about. They always say, it’s whatever you want it to be — because I think that’s their intention, to connect with each person’s subconscious, and not to try and dictate. For all of his intellectualism, I think Peter Greenaway directs from his real inner gut, and he seems to have a very direct channel in that. The only other director I can think of who’s close is David Lynch.”–Helen Mirren

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Michael Gambon, Richard Bohringer, Alan Howard

PLOT: A brutish but successful criminal with expensive tastes has bought a French restaurant, where he holds court nightly drinking the finest wines and abusing staff and customers equally. A bookseller who dines there catches the eye of Albert’s mistreated Wife, and the two embark on an illicit affair. The Thief’s discovery of their affair sets off a chain of violent reprisals which ultimately draw in the establishment’s Cook.

Still from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
BACKGROUND:

  • The MPAA denied The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover an R-rating (under 17 not admitted without parent) because of its extreme content (including scat, violence, nudity, cannibalism, and some disgusting stuff, too). Rather than have the film released with an X rating (a designation associated with hardcore pornography in the public mind), Miramax released the film unrated in the U.S. This is frequently cited as one of the films that led to the creation of the adults-only NC-17 rating (under 17 not admitted, a rating which fared little better than X). Cook accepted a NC-17 rating for its DVD release.
  • The controversy did not hurt, and probably significantly boosted, Cook at the U.S. box office, where it grossed over $7 million, becoming the closest thing to a hit Greenaway has ever had.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: We are going to skip over the shocking (and spoilerish) final image, and instead focus on the color transitions during the magnificent tracking shots: as Georgina walks from the sparkling white ladies’ room into the royal red of the restaurant’s main dining room, her dress changes color to match the decor.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Although not as thoroughly weird as most of the rest of his oeuvre, Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is the director’s most beloved (?) movie, and in many ways his poplar masterpiece. While the surrealism here is as subtle as the scatology is explicit, there can be no doubt that Cook is an outrageous, brutish and lovely work of sumptuous unreality from an eccentric avant-gardist that demands a place of honor among the weirdest films ever made.


Original trailer for The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover

COMMENTS: He begins the movie by smearing dog feces on a quivering naked man who owes him money, then urinating on him. This is Continue reading 194. THE COOK THE THIEF HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (1989)

LIST CANDIDATE: POM POKO (1994)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: (Disney dub) voices of Maurice LaMarche, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, , Tress MacNeille

PLOT: A community of shapeshifting “racoons” struggle to deal with suburban encroachment on their forest homes, inventing schemes that range from arranging hauntings to all-out war.

Still from Pom Poko (1994)
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: To Westerners, much of the weirdness in Pom Poko comes from their unfamiliarity with Japanese folklore; however, there is a far deeper and more affecting strain of strangeness here than can be explained simply by culture clash. The hallucinatory “monster parade” sequence alone could be enough to put Pom Poko over the top.

COMMENTS: Written by and directed by Isao “Grave of the Fireflies” Takahata, Pom Poko was an all-star effort from Studio Ghibli. It’s also one of their most Japanese productions, made with no eye for how it might play for Western audiences, and it’s richer for indulging its indigenous roots. The epic story tracks the struggles of a band of tanuki (translated in the English dub as “racoons,” although the species is more closely related to dogs than to racoons) against the deforestation of their homes by the suburbs expanding outward from Tokyo. The tale embodies Miyazaki’s environmentalist concerns, although the mood is not so much one of activism as it is of melancholy. Since tanuki are spirit creatures, ancient tricksters who transform to play pranks on humans, their decimation symbolizes not only the degradation of the natural world, but also of the spiritual world, whose frontier continually recedes in modern times in the name of progress. The eventual fate of the tanuki is reminiscent of the Elves of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, as they cede their turn as the dominant culture to Men with reluctant dignity.

The tanuki are famous shapeshifters, and Pom Poko‘s creatures come in at least three forms: the quadrupedal state that we humans are familiar with; the anthropomorphic bipedal form in which they spend most of their time for exposition purposes; and, when they’re in a partying mood, the animals spontaneously shift into happy-faced teddy bears. That’s not counting the infinite variety of shapes gifted tanuki can take with practice; the best of them can even pass among us as humans. Watching their transmogrification training regimen, as young male tanuki show an unflattering aptitude for shifting into female forms, provides much of the comedy in the first few reels. Tanuki, though noble creatures, are also the buffoons of the spirit animal world. The helpful narration explains that they are basically lazy and hedonistic, somewhat gullible (Japanese children are able to trick them into revealing themselves by singing songs), and that they find hamburgers irresistible. Obviously, not all of this is strictly folkloric, but the mixture of legend and anime tropes makes for a surprisingly rich milieu: comic, tragic, and alien all at the same time.

Of course, it’s difficult for Westerners to discuss Takahata‘s tanuki without addressing their oft-prominent testicles, depictions of which have infamously given rise to the movie being described by immature sorts as “that raccoon ball movie.” Even worse than seeing the cartoon testicles is the fact that male tanuki occasionally stretch their scrotums to enormous proportions, large enough to serve as a parachute or a welcome mat for dozens of their fellows. That’s the perfect example of the film’s culture shock value. Other sequences from the film show cross-cultural weirdness, however, like the tanuki’s Nintendo presentation on their shrinking habitat, or the time they lured corporate functionaries into their Escher-esque flying cat shrine to steal a million dollars worth of yen. And the five-minute phantasmagorical “monster parade” of skeletal horses, fire-breathing tigers, and various misshapen yokai must be seen to be believed. Overall, Pom Poko is a remarkable adventure in Japanese mythology that is all the more involving because it makes no concessions to Western audiences.

Disney upgraded Pom Poko to Blu-ray in 2015. The film can be watched in the English dubbed version or in the original Japanese with subtitles.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Quite frankly, if you’re over the age of 12, you’ll be impressed with the animation and creativity, and howling at the weirdness.”–Norm Schrager, AMC (DVD)

READER RECOMMENDATION: KILL BILL (VOLS. 1 & 2) (2003-2004)

Reader recommendation by Caleb Moss

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , , Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Vivica A. Fox

PLOT: A woman known only as “the Bride” awakens from a coma and sets off to wreak revenge on Bill and the team of assassins that betrayed her.

Still from Kill Bill
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: By the sole merit of being Quentin Tarantino’s most self-indulgent, ambitious and proudly artificial film. Not only is this Tarantino at the height of his formalistic film-making capabilities, this kinetic and entertaining work of ultraviolent pornography may perhaps be the most aesthetically alienating and divisive in his filmography, even to the adamant Tarantino fanbase. It’s therefore worth considering fot the List not only as representative of Quentin Tarantino, but as being the seminal representative of the postmodern exploitation genre at its tautest and most entertaining.

COMMENTS: Have you ever been curious what kind of film  would direct if he was perpetually stuck with the brain of a hyper-intelligent, hyperactive 14-year old and had an obsessive penchant for wanton violence, manga, and endlessly deconstructing pop-culture ephemera? This is your movie.

Adhering to the already well-established standard on this website in which the quality of the film discussed can merit inclusion on the List when the degree of weirdness is more or less questionable, I will waste no further time on exalting the blood-drenched beauty of this film, and instead shall provide three reasons why this is Tarantino’s weirdest film:

1. Aesthetic Design: If you’re the film-obsessive type, then every frame of this movie will feel as if you’re being treated to a Nouvelle Vague-themed candy store whose wares are arranged in an array of colorful nods to exploitation and B-movie cinema (see the crimson skies inspired by the Certified Weird film Goke in Volume 1!) The film alternates so frequently between different cinematic modes and filters ranging from anime (a segment animated by  of Funky Forest fame!) to black and white to the striking image of the faces of Uma Thurman’s enemies superimposed over hers in a garish red hue.

2. Unreal and Hyperstylized Violence: Tarantino, a renowned purveyor of aestheticized violence, slices and dices himself a place within the annals of such maestros of perverse, arty carnage among the likes of Sam Peckinpah, , and Sergio Leone. Blood spurts out like ribbons from expertly cut limbs. Our revenge-bent protagonist literally survives a gunshot to her temple simply through the revitalizing force of pure hatred. Uma Thurman dismembers over eighty-eight Yakuza grunts—and then some—effortlessly. A custom-made katana can literally tear down both man and deity alike.

3. Non-Linear Chronology: As in Pulp Fiction, the Kill Bill series structures itself after postmodern narrative, preferring to splice up its epic story as if the entire film was being projected as the murderous fever-dream of an over-caffeinated geek.

Unlike Pulp Fiction, however, the Kill Bill series manages to achieve what its widely-loved predecessor only aims at: rendering pure, unadulterated pulp into a cinematic showcase for gloriously nihilistic Pop-Art. Motifs of blood, sharpened steel, and fantastical dismemberment recur frequently until it all blurs together, a savage yet strangely mesmerizing poetry.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A strange, fun and densely textured work that gets better as it goes along… Few filmmakers have ever had the freedom and resources to make such a piece exactly as they wished, and Tarantino takes it so far that it becomes a highly idiosyncratic and deeply personal excursion into a world of movie-inspired unreality.”–Todd McCarthy, Variety (Vol. 1, contemporaneous)

 

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Here’s the plan for next week (substitutions possible but unlikely): we’ll start with a reader recommendation for ‘s Kill Bill (both vols). G. Smalley will take a look at Studio Ghibli’s environmental “racoon testicle” cartoon Pom Poko (1994) and ‘s artsploitation revenge drama The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989). Alfred Eaker will address one of the many gaps in our coverage with an examination of La Strada, the maestro’s modern fable about a circus strongman and his waif slave. That’s a pretty impressive lineup of high quality movies; we hope our writers will be up to the challenge.

Now’s the time you’ve been waiting for all week—when we reveal the strangest search terms that brought people to the site the past seven days. We’ll start with a search that’s paradoxically so bland that it becomes weird: “australian movie of the asian man diving into a pool.” Even Australians can’t think this is a strong enough premise to maintain an entire movie. A weirder film might be “sci fi decadent teen bra movie” (I picture a “smart bra” that talks and gives its wearer indecent advice). But our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week once more returns to the theme of vacuuming and blogs: “mom vacuuming suck up blogger.” We’re not entirely sure how we became the Web’s #1 destination for weird vacuuming/blog searches, but we’ll take traffic any way we can get it.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue now stands:  The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (next week!); Society (DVD re-release expected soon!); The Fox Family; AngelusThis Filthy Earth; Conspirators of Pleasure; Innocence; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Blue Velvet; ID (2005); Master of the Flying Guillotine; Yesterday Was a Lie; The Ninth Configuration; Love Me If Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 2/27/2015

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

SCREENINGS (BFI Southbank, London, U.K., Mar 1-17):

“Defiance and Compassion: The Films of Věra Chytilová” – Rare screenings of Chytilová’s avant-garde Czech movies, which aside from the Certified Weird Daisies [Sedmikrásky] are seldom seen by anyone. Highlights of the weeks-long retrospective include “The World Cafeteria” segment from Pearls of the Deep on March 1 and 5, Daisies on the 9th and 10th, Fruit of Paradise, a retelling of the Adam and Eve story BFI calls her “most experimental work,” on March 11 and 15, and documentaries, talks and reflections by critics and Chytilová collaborators throughout the month. Londoners can get details at the following link: Věra Chytilová retrospective at BFI Southbank.

NEW ON DVD:

Fellini Satyricon (1969): Read the Certified Weird entry! We did this one way before the Criterion Collection got hip to it, naturally, but we hope to bring you coverage of their edition, too. Buy Fellini Satyricon (Criterion Collection).

House of Last Things (2013): A mind-bending horror about a classical music critic, his depressed wife, and a trio of troubled youngsters who house-sit for them while they vacation in Italy. Sounds interesting and possibly quite weird, but beware; it has the kind of glowing reviews on Amazon and IMDB that usually come from those intimately connected with the production. Buy House of Last Things.

Watership Down (1978): Read Scott Sentinella’s capsule review. Martin Rosen’s animated tale of apocalypse among the talking rabbits is an unexpected, but welcome, addition to the Criterion Collection. Buy Watership Down (Criterion Collection).

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Black Sunday (1960): Read Alfred Eaker’s review. Please note: this is the AIP “American Release” version of the film with Les Baxter’s score, which many (including Alfred) consider inferior to the uncut version—which, confusingly enough, was also released by Kino Lorber with the same cover art three years ago, and is now listed as “out of stock” on Amazon. Buy Black Sunday [AIP Version Blu-ray].

Fellini Satyricon (1969): See description in DVD above. This fits the same material onto one Blu-ray, as opposed to two DVDs. Buy Fellini Satyricon [Criterion Collection Blu-ray].

God Told Me To (1975): Read Pamela De Graff’s review. Larry Cohen’s strange genre mashup starts with the premise of a plague of serial killers striking with the excuse “God told me to,” and then gets weirder. Buy God Told Me To [Blu-ray].

Watership Down (1978): See description in DVD above. Buy Watership Down [Criterion Collection Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON SHOUT FACTORY TV:

Corman’s World (2011): Our weekly selection from Shout TV’s new free streaming catalog is this documentary on the dime-movie mogul , focusing (of course) not on the and movies he distributed in the USA but on his goofy, deranged B-movie productions like Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) and  Death Race 2000 (1975). This one has no commercial breaks. Watch Corman’s World on Shout Factory TV.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

PHILOMENA (2013)

There is a potentially exploitative blockbuster at the heart of Philomena (2013), and as it unfolds we expect, at any moment, to be drawn into yet another example of cinema as propaganda. A film with the theme of abusive nuns in an Irish Catholic asylum lording over unwed mothers is an invitation for at least one audience-as-silly-putty moment, molded by hackneyed writing and line delivery. It never happens. Instead, we are treated to a sensitively written, smartly balanced drama, which never succumbs to overt sentimentality or cynicism.

Such restraint takes a collaborative effort, and Philomena benefits from the directing of Stephen Frears, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s screen treatment of Martin Sixsmith’s book, along with Judi Dench’s astute performance.

Dench’s portrayal of a devout, elderly survivor of convent abuse is one of touchingly nuanced wisdom. Sadistically dehumanized for actually experiencing puberty and having a child out of wedlock, Philomena Lee spends fifty years searching for the son that her religious superiors sold to an American couple.

After a chance meeting with the recently disgraced journalist (and atheist) Martin Sixsmith, Philomena embarks on a search for her son, which leads them both to Washington, D.C. and a heartbreaking discovery.

Still from Philomena (2013)Sixsmith (Coogan), a lapsed Catholic himself, paradoxically (and complexly) proves to be both Philomena’s foil and means to the truth. Aptly, it is not closeted prayer, but aid from a fellow human that manifests Philomena’s invocation.

Although cinematic treatments of religion have traditionally been fodder for mainstream audiences, Philomena somewhat slipped under the radar in its opening run. The reason for that is simple. To quote Paul Gauguin: “In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite.” However, after receiving a plethora of good reviews and (later) awards, Philomena found its audience and, even with its nonpartisan approach, still managed to provoke a good percentage of them.

Accusations that the film was arty, anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-Reagan, pro-gay, and had a liberal agenda flew fast and furious, despite the fact that the film, like the book, was nonfiction. The “silence is golden” species of nuns serve, albeit unintentionally, as the model for this defensiveness. Upon hearing the confession of the nun Mary Johnson, who had engaged in a lesbian relation, Mother Teresa told her charge: “Talking about the sin is as great as the sin itself.”

In the Washington Post review of Philomena, critic Ann Hornaday describes a portrayal of “unfathomable cruelty.” One supposes she is blessed for thinking so, but it is completely fathomable to anyone who has been subjected to the abuses of organized religion.  In addition to the religious, predatory aggression vented against young, stained, single mothers, a second sin is lensed here: the sin of “not talking about it.”

The offended faction of Philomena’s audience echoes the shadowy nuns here. Any mention of wrong deeds perpetrated in the name of religion, or all spoken criticisms, are a sinful blemish on the pedestaled institution and an insult to the faith.

Even the secular worshipers of the iconic Ronald Reagan jumped into the film’s maelstrom. Outraged that the film made a passing reference to that administration’s cutting of AIDS funds (which it did), the extremists labeled the film as having a liberal agenda, despite the fact that Philomena’s lost son worked for President Reagan and Philomena herself is, primarily, a religious conservative. One is forced to conclude, from said reactions, that the coveted outcome for AIDS victims is “let them die in the streets.”

Hornaday identifies with Martin Sixsmith’s sense of outrage. She is less understanding of Philomena’s tenacious faith and her (seemingly) having turned a blind eye to the vestals’ crimes. In this, Hornaday mirrors the secular world at large in failing to grasp the pulse of many abuse victims who insist that the abusers, the silent elite, or the self-appointed keepers of the flame will not solely own the religious tradition or have access to the Kingdom’s keys.

In sharp contrast, those who desire nothing less than a perfectly polished veneer for the religious establishment will indeed find room for offense, regardless of the film’s inevitably impartial approach. Philomena‘s right-wing critics are predictably hypocritical in their complaints of the film’s nonchalant portrayal of a deceased gay man. These same critics have made no, or damn little, reference to guilty heterosexual fornicators because, in the 21st century, hell, we are all convicted of that.

193. MY WINNIPEG (2007)

“What happens, by accident, is that the way you choose to lie, because it’s coming from you, has something of the truth in it. Whatever you’re saying is something that’s intentionally coding the truth. And then somehow that coding gets worn down the more you retell it until finally you might as well just be telling the truth—under oath, and on sodium pentothal. It’s disguised somewhat but it’s as true as, say, Homer is true, the “Odyssey,” and the great literature is true. None of the surface is true, but… So in this case I started with a mostly true surface, and the more mischievous I tried to get about it… I just found myself returning to my way of thinking about the world, or my place in it, which involves laps and subterranean things. So it’s not like I was structuring the story so that things would rhyme or echo with each other, or belong in one piece, it’s just that they came from one place—me—and ended up in one sort of cohesive place—the movie My Winnipeg.”–Guy Maddin

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Guy Maddin

FEATURING: Guy Maddin (narration), , ,

PLOT: “Guy Maddin” narrates a documentary about his hometown, Winnipeg, mixing fact with outrageous tall tales. In the course of the film he hires actors to portray his family and recreate scenes from his childhood. Maddin states his intent is to escape Winnipeg by “filming my way out;” but one of the running themes of the documentary is that no one ever leaves Winnipeg.

Still from My Winnipeg (2007)
BACKGROUND:

  • My Winnipeg was commissioned by Canada’s Documentary Channel.
  • The film is the third part of Maddin’s “Me Trilogy,” three partly autobiographical but fictional films all starring a character named Guy Maddin, which also includes Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) and Brand Upon the Brain! (2006),
  • During festival screenings the film was shown with live narration, usually performed by Maddin but sometimes rendered by guest narrators including and .
  • Ann Savage, who specialized in femme fatale bad girl roles in the 1940s, had not acted in 16 years (her last role was a bit part in an episode of “Saved by the Bell”) when Maddin called upon the then 86-year old actress to portray his mother in My Winnipeg. Savage died one year later.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The eleven horse’s heads, distressed mouths filled with frost, flash-frozen in the Red River after they stampeded while fleeing a stable fire. The view is so romantic and astounding that (according to Maddin) young lovers used to picnic among the icy mares’ heads.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:The Documentary Channel commissioned a documentary about the city of Winnipeg from renegade director Guy Maddin, and instead of a recitation of local facts, they got an icy plunge into the frozen lake of the director’s psyche. The mockumentary form turns out to be a perfect match for Maddin’s prankster temperament. Like the subterranean rivers the First Nations say flow with mystical power underneath Winnipeg’s surface rivers—“the forks beneath the forks”—he exhumes (or invents) fantastic myths about his hometown to try to get at deeper truths about himself.


Original trailer for My Winnipeg

COMMENTS: Relentlessly subjective, Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg is Continue reading 193. MY WINNIPEG (2007)

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