Winston interviews Guy Maddin
How is celebrated filmmaker Guy Maddin getting ready for "Attack Of The Winnipeg Hockey Moms", the Toronto launch of My Winnipeg? He and Winston shoot the puck, back and forth.
W: How do Winnipeg Hockey Moms differ from their counterparts in other Canadian cities?
G: Our moms show a little more leg at the games. There is serious HILF action worth catching at the rinks. And a lot of our moms actually play in leagues of their own, too. They’re extremely tough.
W: Is everything in My Winnipeg based on fact or did you have to take some artistic liberties to convey the truth? For instance, did horse heads popping out of the frozen water routinely startle young lovers?
G: The simple answer is this: It’s all true. What I never had a chance to explain about those horse heads is what happened to them during that great romantic winter during which they spent five months monitoring all of our citizenry’s most bestial passions. After countless young lovers sat upon their heads, or even copulated right on top of them for all we know, all the equine ears broke off. Valentined initials were carved into the foreheads of the gelid beasts. One head was sawn off and stolen, possibly to be rendered into soup in St. Boniface, our French community. When the spring thaw finally came the heads were mutilated and blackened. The warm temperatures that preceded the rivers’ breakup were not kind to the nostrils of those who dwelt downwind.
W: Why did you opt to write a My Winnipeg book after you made the movie? Isn’t it usually the other way around?
G: I once wrote a novelization of my movie Cowards Bend the Knee, or at least I wish I had. I published something that was more a hybrid novelization and extended treatment. It pops up on store shelves now and then. But I like the idea of companion pieces. This new book expands on My Winnipeg the movie in ways that deleted scenes on a DVD never could have. There was so much material I was dying to fit into the film, but so much of it seemed better suited to the page than the screen. Much of it was in fact unfilmable: It HAD to be written. This book was a great opportunity to fill out the history of that place - my home, my hometown, my heart - as I see it. I love ellipses, so rather than use this book to fill in filmic gaps I’ve used it to open up new territory riddled with even more ellipses! Now it finally feels to me like the city exists - really exists! - in an historically and mythologically complete way.
W: Where do you stand on that perennial conundrum: rock, paper, or scissors?
G: My boyhood friend, Tom Laluk, who was also the son of a hairdresser, always acted on instincts. He once broke the head off a flower in my mother’s garden. Without even thinking he picked up the flower head and tried to screw it. Tom understood what all those petals stood for. Anyway, in one of the most disturbing of our secret covens in his father’s salon basement, we took a chicken and an egg - I can’t remember which came first - and he wrapped them together in a huge sheet of butcher’s paper, like a weighty brown Xmas present containing a plucked chicken with an egg shoved back up its ass. Without explanation Tom then stabbed the parcel with scissors and finally smashed the soggy bundle with a large rock. We were thoroughly and savagely satisfied for hours after this mysterious ritual.
W: You have challenged folks such as the author and musician Dave Bidini, the radio announcer for the Leafs, Andy Frost, and Joey Serlin of The Watchmen to a table-hockey tournament but insisted that they play on your board. Indeed, you have gone to some lengths to have it shipped from Winnipeg and retooled. What is so special about your table-hockey set? Does it give you home ice advantage?
G: Home ice advantage is EVERYTHING in table hockey. My game is very old school. The players only spin, they are not capable of movement up and down the ice. They can shoot the cat's-eye marble over 100 mph. I know these players. I know in my blood what they can and can’t do in any situation and even though I haven’t played on this game board since the main spring of my right point man snapped some thirty years ago I expect to perform well. I had to take the game to my friend Szolt, a Transylvanian jeweler, to be repaired. He’s done an excellent job. Toronto artist Stephen Cribbin has created new jerseys for my old metal 2D players. One team will bear the emblem of the Black Tuesdays, that team of ghosts which plays in my movie. The other team will be the Winnipeg Jetless Jets. Their emblem, as designed by Winnipeg artist Paul Butler, is the old Jets logo with both the stylized plane and the word "Jets" removed. I get goose bumps just thinking about the tourney. Bidini has been trash talking me in emails. I’ve never even met the guy and he’s already starting in.
W: One of the recurring motifs in your work is the past, particularly around the turn of the last century. Do the events of this period have a resonance for you? Or is it the more general notion of nostalgia?
G: I think I've finally cured myself of nostalgia so I'd better not even think about this answer, sorry.
W: What books are currently on your bedside table?
G: Bidini’s The Five Hole Stories - I need to scout him out in advance. Safe Conduct by Boris Pasternak. There's no hockey in it so far but it's really really wonderful.
W: Which one trend in the world of Canadian cinema would you like to put on ice?
G: The donut-hole protagonist which centers most Canadian narrative films. Things happen to this protagonist, but he or she almost never makes them happen. Our films are too often like sentences restricted to passive verbs. Mine especially. Put these on ice and we'll get a few box office hits eventually, I figure, and that'll please the more commercially bent at Telefilm, etc., freeing me to make even more self-indulgent stuff.
W: Who is your favourite Sesame Street character? Why?
G: Elmo. My granddaughter loves him. I have no idea why, but why question it?
W: What five songs would you put on a mix-tape soundtrack for a table-hockey tournament?
G: Womanizer by Britney Spears
Slider by T.Rex
Paganini's Capriccio in Sol minore as played by Jan Kubelik c.1907
Ballroom Blitz by the Sweet
Mr. Soul by Neil Young
In honour of the publication of My Winnipeg by Guy Maddin and Mother's Day, This Is Not A Reading Series, Coach House Books and NOW Magazine present 'THE ATTACK OF THE WINNIPEG HOCKEY MOMS'. Maddin will narrate a program of clips showcasing some of his favourite film mothers. He will then lace up for a take-no-prisoners all-star table-hockey competition, featuring Dave Bidini, Andy Frost, and Joey Serlin. And Revival will be turned into a Winnipeg beer hall, playing wall-to-wall tunes by 'peg bands and serving delicious perogies. Marc Glassman, Executive Director of This Is Not A Reading Series and Proprietor of Pages Books & Magazines, will host the evening.
Revival, 783 College Street (College and Shaw)
Tues., May 12: 7:30 (doors 7pm) $5 Cover (Free with Book Purchase)