In the dozen or so decades of cinema, there has rarely been a talent so provocative and iconoclastic as Guy Maddin. An artist with a wry sense of humor and keen eye for the surreal and the archaic, he has almost single-handedly helped audiences rethink the trajectory of the history of the moving image, allowing his films to explore stylistic elements not seen since the silent period but brought forward in modern, often sublime ways.
What sets his aesthetic apart is that it’s not mere academic exercise or anti-audience avant garde — Maddin brings you along with his journey through the past, allowing one to feel a part of the exploration rather than shuttered from it. His films may be odd and occasionally opaque, but they’re always fun and thrilling, as playful and engaging as the man himself.
His latest (co-directed by Evan Johnson) is The Forbidden Room, which includes among other elements the dreams and recollections of a volcano, and it’s another highly acclaimed work. The feature just won the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, which comes with a monetary prize of $100,000, from the Toronto Film Critics Association.
His most accomplished work, though, may be his take on nonfiction, the astute and charming My Winnipeg, about his oft hapless hometown. A stunning mix of myth and documentary, it is a keystone for those wishing to explore Maddin’s cinema, a perfect fusion of his sensibility mixed with a topic that’s both engaging and, at times, quite silly.
Nonfics asked Maddin to craft a list of his own favorite nonfiction films, and as expected, his list contains more than a few surprises, including some — as matched by his own work — stretching the very notion of fiction vs. nonfiction filmmaking.
Glen or Glenda (Ed Wood Jr., 1953)
“This almost indescribably nutty collage of Bela Lugosi monologues, burlesque footage, autobiographical reenactments and inexplicable cutaways eventually coalesces into a moving cine-essay in the Chris Marker tradition — before Marker!”
Tomorrow’s Another Day (Johann Carlsson, 2011)
“Incredibly charming look at the making of Swedish director Roy Andersson’s You The Living inspires me to direct hard, harder, hardest!”
Toute la mémoire du monde (Alain Resnais, 1956)
“The most gorgeous portrayal of books and memory possible.”
Salesman (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1968)
“These sibling filmmakers take Mad Men-vintage cigarette smoke and remove all glamour in their look at artery-hardened door-to-door bible salesmen. It feels like my ‘Greatest Generation’ dad plays all the roles in this grim story.”
No No: A Dockumentary (Jeff Radice, 2014)
“Racially supercharged ’70s baseball, brashly swirled around iconoclast pitcher Doc Ellis — druggy, funky and poignant. With a Check Your Head-like instrumental score by Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz.”
Cuadecuc, vampir (Pere Portabella, 1970)
“Exhilaratingly strange anti-fascist screed made by stealing shots from the set of Jesus Franco’s Count Dracula. Dreamily sound-sculpted by Carles Santos. Look for soon-to-be-late gorgeosity Soledad Miranda of Vampyros Lesbos fame.”