My Winnipeg

Starring Ann Savage and Louis Negin. Rated PG. Opens Friday, July 25, at the Cinemark Tinseltown

Winnipeg, like Belém, Brazil, is a fairly large place that’s quite far away from the next fairly large place.

Unlike the fabled Amazonian capital, however, Manitoba’s premier metropolis makes us think Siberia, not jungle paradise. This no doubt explains why so many of that city’s talented sons and daughters have built their careers elsewhere.

The major exception to this rule of cultural exogamy is Guy Maddin. Canada’s most ecstatically pixillated filmmaker perversely refuses to leave home.

My Winnipeg not only show us why but how difficult this decision can be.

Perhaps the world’s first automockumentary, the film is narrated by a fellow named Guy Maddin who struggles to stay awake on the train taking him out of town, while his fellow citizens happily surrender to the somnambulism that is their daily lot. Torn between his mother’s world of the beauty salon (Mrs. Maddin is played by Ann Savage, the legendary star of Edgar G. Ulmer’s despairing 1945 pulp masterpiece, Detour) and his father’s hockey-arena universe, this alternate Guy’s coming-of-age is a hilarious post-Freudian farce.

In addition to the places already mentioned, fetishistic landmarks include a beloved department store, a precociously kinky swimming pool, and the sort of bordellos that only exist in backward-looking imaginations. What’s perhaps most intriguing about My Winnipeg is the manner in which it shows how a straight director can be so good at doing camp. In the same way in which Samuel Beckett’s later plays are dependent upon what he called his “prenatal memories”, Maddin’s motion-picture mindscape pivots on the fact that he has somehow managed to maintain his pubescent polymorphous perversity creatively intact.

Which means that the filmmaker isn’t just Canada’s expressionist answer to Tim Burton. On a far more profound level, he is also our Federico Fellini.