I went to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. Maddin described it as a "docu-fantasia" (or was it "docutasia") about his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada, duh). And, barring a better word, it was exactly that.
It's hard to discern what was fact and what was fantasy — for instance, did Maddin (also acting as narrator) in fact rent out his family home to stage reenactments of his childhood? Were the events described real in any way? Does it matter? I had a similar reaction to the feverish dream of his former film, Brand Upon the Brain!. Winnipeg shared the poetic and metaphoric use of visual effects (rather than the more traditional use of creating a false reality).
My friend Christina has a theory about Rochester: that people don't leave because it's hard to move in winter, but when spring arrives, everything comes up green and beautiful, summers are fantastic, fall is beautiful in its own right, and before you know it, it's back to winter and you can't leave. Maddin shares a similar view of Winnipeg: that people are so sleepy there that they are unable to stay awake long enough to stay on the train that leaves town — to escape.
So I guess, in the end, it succeeds in being a documentary about Winnipeg — that which he was supposedly chartered to do (and evidenced by the title card announcing funding by The Documentary Channel) — albeit an extraordinarily personal one. But, nonetheless, one that appears to succeed in documenting the spirit of a city.