Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cinematic Poetry (it can happen)

The other evening I had the distinct pleasure of encountering the delights of Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg. Since it’s been winging its way around the US festival circuit since April, I shall shunt my lyrical waxings elsewhere, and instead talk about something shiny and new, but nonetheless related.

Winnipeg does what film should aspire to: using the medium to create something personal, distinct and engaging – and, not being a literary expert in any shape or form, I can, in my relative naivety, squash the words ‘cinematic’ and ‘poetry’ together in celebration of what Maddin’s film achieves. Whether the words and phrases used in the film hold much poetic weight on their own matters not, since the overall experience comes from the layering of image, sound and narration.

I’m not the only one throwing around this particular label; the UK’s foremost pithy critic, Mark Kermode, has recently sung the praises of Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City (‘lyrical’ and ‘transcendent’ being the key words). Davies speaks of his love of the small things that reveal ‘the greater truth’ of loss, nostalgia and the city. This rendering of what critics have described as both a love song and a eulogy was achieved through initial mute edits, to ensure that the images ‘speak’ on their own terms; extracts of (very carefully) chosen music and poetry were added later as a counterpoint. Whether this approach renders the end result less of a personal expression than Maddin’s film remains to be seen. I’m not sure how much I can love a snowless snippet of docu-memory, but Kermode assures us all that Davies’ mesmerising tones will more than make up for this oversight. It makes its US debut in January, so if you liked Winnipeg, be sure to track down ‘Liverpool’ - and let me know how the two compare.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Right, finally found a cinema to see this in the other day and am sad to report that it didn't quite work for me: the 'layers' didn't blend into something sublime and lyrical, as so many have suggested. 'My Winnipeg' is much closer to cinematic poetry, it must be said.