Sara Vilkomerson's Guide To This Week’s Movies: Oh, Canada!

Holy Panda! Kung Fu Panda, the animated film from DreamWorks about a chubby, slacking, would-be Kung Fu fighter voiced by Jack Black, took the top spot last weekend, raking in over $60 million. That’s more than those boozy Sex and the City gals, who got bumped to fourth place. The film set a record for the best opening ever for a non-sequel DreamWorks ’toon, and comes in third place all time after Shrek and Shrek 2. Could the weekend’s back-breaking heat have helped fill up all those seats, we wonder?


THIS WEEKEND, we’ll see a showdown between Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk (like Shrek, big, green and often exceedingly grouchy) and The Happening, the latest from M. Night Shyamalan (brace yourself for the inevitable “I so saw that twist coming”). But for those seeking a little something off the beaten path, there’s the quirky personal flick My Winnipeg from the ever-inventive Guy Maddin, filmmaker of numerous shorts and nine other features including The Saddest Music in the World and Brand Upon the Brain!, which played at last year’s New York Film Festival accompanied by a live orchestra. In the film, Mr. Maddin tackles his Canadian city of birth, examining the idea of trying to break out of your hometown (think Bruce Springsteen) and the ties and personal mythologies that often keep you right where you started. The director describes My Winnipeg as more “docufantasia” than documentary, which is fairly accurate. Shot in stark black and white, with actors portraying both the director and members of his family (his deceased father is represented by a rug), the film mixes archival footage with the director’s home videos. Everything is set sort of dreamily, with a narration that seems more beat-poetry-like than plot-driven. Winnipeg is apparently no different than any other town in its quirks and pride (since 1888, on the first day of winter, there’s been a citywide scavenger hunt with the first prize being a one-way ticket out of Dodge—though no one ever actually takes it, as the point of the exercise is apparently to discover through a day of city scouring that there’s no place like home). Mr. Maddin describes himself as being enchanted and intoxicated by this city where he’s lived for the past 50 years, but also “bitterly disillusioned.” Among the history and minutiae of Winnipeg that Mr. Maddin provides (and there is a lot), there’s also an awful lot of personal ground covered, too; one almost has the tickling sensation we’re watching some sort of B-roll from a looong Freudian therapy session. We’re not convinced that tourism is going to jump in that part of the world thanks to My Winnipeg, but as with his previous films, one must admire the originality of Mr. Maddin’s work.


My Winnipeg opens Friday at the IFC Film Center. Sara Vilkomerson's Guide To This Week’s Movies: Oh, Canada!