This loosely anchors Maddin’s guided tour through Winnipeg’s local history which encompasses events both real and surreal, drawing as much from dreams and distorted memories as from newsreels and history books. Highlights include visions of sleep-walking strollers jingling the keys (which they are legally allowed to keep) of their former residences, the Winnipeg General strike, corrupt ‘man pageants’, a three-story pool, a romantic stroll past horrifically frozen horses, the failed amusement park Happyland, a strange compromise between rival taxi companies, the television show ‘LedgeMan’ about a suicidal jumper getting talked back to safety week after week and much more.
Maddin’s tongue-in-cheek revelations about the city’s supposed supernatural affinity (municipal séances, the ghosts of hockey players, his oft-repeated incantation of “the forks, the lap, the fur… the forks beneath the forks!”) is his desperate escape pod from the banality of documentary truth. He’s equally fast and loose with biographical honesty in his overtly-Freudian dissection of his relationship with his mother, comically failing to disguise a fairly conventional middle-class upbringing while highlighting the suspect quotidian details that shaped him. Most successful of all is the blend of sincerity and satire, reverence and ridiculousness in his treatment of Winnipeg; lavishing it with the kind of monumental cinematic treatment usually reserved for the likes of New York City or Paris. The result is both a heartbreakingly touching love letter and a hilariously vibrant send-up unlike any other film.